June 19, 2018
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County hospital using popular technology to help stroke survivors communicate

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Although not talked about as often as cancer or heart attacks, strokes kill more than 133,000 people each year.

Strokes are also the leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability, according to the National Stroke Association.

Today, more than 7 million people have survived a stroke, with a number of those individuals left unable to communicate effectively.

With that in mind, The Aroostook Medical Center has begun helping stroke survivors overcome their difficulties with assistance from popular technology.

Over the summer, the hospital tasked a Mapleton resident and recent graduate of Husson University with completing a project that would benefit TAMC patients. Kassie Lovely recently finished a 12-week clinical internship at the hospital. Lovely graduated with a masters of science in occupational therapy and completed the project for the hospital as part of her clinical rotation.

Lovely wanted her project to center on treatment and education, but she also knew that if the patients dreaded taking part in the treatment, the project would not be well received. With that in mind, she spearheaded a fundraiser to purchase an Apple iPad and several apps that would assist patients with communication problems.

It was a project that has opened doors both for patients and staffers, said Anthony Briscoe, speech and language pathologist at TAMC.

“We have many patients who have found success with iPads, iPhones and other sources of talking technology,” Briscoe said Tuesday afternoon. “In some cases, we give them the tools to speak for just a short time. In other cases, its a whole new voice for them.”

Lovely worked with TAMC rehab staff and the TAMC Healthcare Charities office to conduct the fundraiser to buy an iPad. She raised $650 through ideas such as “dress casual” days and food sales. Another donor gave money so the hospital could purchase both the machine and the appropriate apps.

Briscoe noted Tuesday that not all of the patients who are using the iPad have had a stroke. Afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and various cancers also can rob a person of speech.

Although a number of patients undergoing stroke rehabilitation are older, Briscoe said most are open to using the technology once the benefits are demonstrated.

“Once you bring it to them and assure them that they are not going to break it or mess it up, most people are very happy with what it can do,” he said. “I have one patient who is very technologically shy, and now she looks forward to using the iPad.”

He added that there is a growing list of cost-effective software applications that can be used by patients to communicate.

While insurance companies will sometimes pay for assistive devices, not all patients have benefits or are qualified to receive equipment. Patients undergoing rehabilitation at TAMC have use of the iPad while they are at the hospital, but they cannot take the machine home with them.

Briscoe said TAMC is accepting donations of new and used iPads, iPods and iPhones, as well as some computer tablets and Android devices for distribution to patients who do not have the financial means to purchase the device themselves.

“Once we get the machines, its really simple to modify them for use by another person,” he said. “I have had cases where one patient has died and the family has donated the machine to the hospital for use by another patient. That really helps. Instead of having the machine sit

in a drawer somewhere or get tossed out, it can continue benefiting someone who really needs it.”

For information on how to donate contact Bobbie-Jo Caron, TAMC Healthcare Charities advancement specialist at 768-4858 or at bcaron@tamc.org.

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