Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas
High-tech Prosthetics Improve Veterans' Quality of Life
January 14, 2010
A personal digital assistant or PDA is a palm-sized computer that can help Veterans with a traumatic brain injury. A built-in calendar helps the user keep track of appointments, while its to-do list and address book are important for those with memory problems.
HOUSTON – If you think the term “prosthetics” refers to artificial limbs, wheelchairs, eyeglasses, and hearing aids, you are right. But at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC), prosthetics also includes ramps, stair glides, home oxygen services, home modifications (such as widening doorways), vehicle modifications (to facilitate getting into a vehicle), adaptations to sports equipment, and implants such as hips, stents, and pacemakers.
With access to state-of-the art technology, the Prosthetics Section at the MEDVAMC now provides our Veteran heroes with devices that fit in the palm of their hand.
Global positioning systems (GPSs) and personal digital assistants (PDAs) may be beneficial for Veterans with certain cognitive impairments. An evaluation determines if a device will enable them to effectively manage their daily affairs. Examples include impairments in attention, orientation, memory, and organization due to medical conditions such as traumatic brain injury.
GPS is a navigation technology that uses satellites. A portable GPS unit, about the size of a cell phone, can “speak” to cognitively or visually impaired Veterans and help them navigate by telling them where they are or by giving them directions to where they are going.
Similarly, a PDA is a palm-sized computer that can help Veterans with a traumatic brain injury. A built-in calendar helps the user keep track of appointments, while its to-do list and address book are important for those with memory problems. Some PDAs have accessibility software (speech recognition, for example), making them easy to use for those with visual impairments.
Other prosthetic devices assist visually impaired Veterans with reading prescription labels, shopping, preparing meals, and even choosing matching clothes.
ScripTalk™ is a small machine about the size of a video tape. It is designed to be user friendly with only three buttons – one to turn it on or off, and two to adjust the setting. The Veteran can hang it on the wall near his or her medicine cabinet. Holding the device near a prescription bottle, it scans the encoded label and, using speech synthesis technology, tells the patient exactly what is inside. Pertinent information such as the name of the patient, the name of the drug, the dosage, general instructions, warnings, and the prescription number along with the doctor’s name and telephone number are all converted into speech.
Another device, the I.D. Mate™, can be used in the home, the workplace, or the grocery store to identify cans, food, jars, boxes, bottles, clothing, playing cards, compact discs, albums, cassette tapes, pictures, important documents, and thousands of other items. When shopping, a Veteran holds an item near the device. The I.D. Mate™ scans the bar code on it and then verbally describes the contents. A headset can be used so the user can choose to be discreet.
The machine contains recorded product information on more than 700,000 items found at any grocery store and comes with a bar code label maker. This allows the user to make their own labels to identify individual pieces of clothing, shoes, or other items not in the machine’s database. With the I.D. Mate, a Veteran independently can choose black socks to go with his black pants, wheat bread instead of white, or play a jazz music CD instead of a country CD.
If you could benefit from any of the prosthetic devices mentioned here or want to learn more about prosthetic devices that may be appropriate for you, please contact your VA primary health care provider.
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