It was first called “exergaming,” and the intent was to energize sedentary children. But there’s more value to this form of gaming than originally thought. Research points to the ability of gaming to help people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and COVID in a number of ways. This article looks at related research and the ramifications for medically directed home care.

Video gaming for early detection of Parkinson’s

In the early phases of PD, gait problems are often present, but not evident. A qualitative 2020 Brazilian study tested a “Goalkeeper Game” for its ability to evaluate cognitive functions and identify gait problems in people with PD.

Result: The video game (65%) was more effective than traditional methods (56%) at predicting gait impairment issues. And earlier detection equates to earlier treatment, better preparation by the patient and family, and a more stable transition to life with Parkinson’s.

Computer-based physical therapy for Parkinson’s

For people who have passed Stage One of PD, video games can facilitate physical therapy. Some of the most notable research on this originates with a University of California San Francisco School of Nursing study that tested “clinically inspired” video games for their ability to improve mobility, coordination, gait, and balance in people with PD.

Result: “The subjects improved their game scores while improving their gait and balance,” according to Bob Hone, the principal developer of the study.

Video gaming:

Scoring a positive impact

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Sleep disruption is the 2nd most commonly reported non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to a 2020 Scientific Reports study. The symptom has gone largely unaddressed because of potential interference of pharmaceutical sleep aids with PD medications, but research now suggests that bright light therapy holds significant potential to abate sleep disruption.

Exergaming-enhanced rehabilitation for people with multiple sclerosis

As far back as 2014, Multiple Sclerosis Journal reported on the promise of gaming technology to enhance rehabilitation.

While the publication acknowledged that “off the shelf” games were not specifically adapted to people with MS, it reported that “ a number of studies do suggest that exergames are enjoyable and could be effective in enhancing adherence to rehabilitation” for people with MS.

Then a 2016 Radiology report looked at video games designed specifically for cognitive training including “memory, attention, visual-spatial processing, and calculation.” The key finding was “the beneficial effect of a video game–based cognitive rehabilitation program for patients with MS.”

A game called EndeavorRX, which received FDA approval as a medical treatment for ADHD in children age 8-12, is being evaluated for COVID recovery.

COVID-19 recovery and video games that help reduce “brain fog”

Building on the research cited above, we are now seeing the development of “prescription video games.” For example, a game called EndeavorRX, which received FDA approval as a medical treatment for ADHD in children age 8-12, is being evaluated for COVID recovery.

The clinical trial is being done by Weill Cornell Medicine and according to neuropsychologist Faith Gunning, “there is enough data that suggests that a significant number of people who have suffered from COVID-19 will have some cognitive issues” that may be helped with video game engagement.

She said EndeavorRX has shown promise “in older adults who have cognitive issues and depression…what we’ve found is that those people do show changes in their brains. We showed that there’s improvement in connectivity within brain networks that support attention and executive skills [after game usage], and we have some preliminary data showing improvement in mood.”

Home care implications

We see these developments as being significant for medically directed home care.

Home care professionals can set up video games as part of a treatment plan. They can encourage and facilitate engagement. And they can monitor daily functioning and document results.

“Older clients are not from a generation known to play video games,” said Christina Hahn, RN, MSN and Care Manager Supervisor for SeniorBridge. “But the research clearly shows that it has great rehab potential for neurological disorders, so if and when video gaming becomes part of a doctor’s treatment plan, our care managers, caregivers and nurses can help get patients involved.”

The integrated care management model by SeniorBridge

Home care services vary widely in the services they provide.

SeniorBridge offers an integrated care management practice model that involves two components:

  1. Clinical care (under the direction of an RNCM/Registered Nurse Care Manager) supported by a Social Worker and a team of caregivers, based on patient’s needs and
  2. A portfolio of home care services and geriatric care management in such areas as nutrition, caregiver education, benefit coordination, transportation, and coordination with discharge planners, physicians, pharmacy, home health agencies, and care managers.

NOTE: We have full COVID-19 safety protocols in place to keep clients, families and associates safe.

For more information on home care for Parkinson’s disease, MS, ALS, and other neurological diseases, contact SeniorBridge.

Sources consulted:
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (2020)
University of California San Francisco
Multiple Sclerosis Journal (2014)
Radiology (2016)
Weill Cornell Medicine New York Presbyterian Hospital (2021)

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