TWU developing tech to improve quality of life for clients “living in place”

Helping clients with disabilities or chronic medical conditions improve their quality of life at home is a primary aim for clinicians. And historically, improving conditions has been hindered by a home evaluation process that is often lengthy and inconsistent.

Now, there’s an app in development that can help facilitate that process.

Texas Woman’s University researchers are in the testing phase of an app called HESTIA (Home Evaluation with a Strategic Triangulating Integrative Approach) that will provide a multi-faceted assessment to identify and address conditions in the home that may hamper a person’s ability to live independently. Supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation, the user-friendly system is a tool therapists can use to adapt home environments to suit the needs of the client.

Over the past three years, TWU occupational therapy professor Noralyn Pickens, Ph.D. and assistant professor Suzanne Burns, Ph.D. have partnered with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Temple University, Marquette University and the Medical University of South Carolina to develop the app, which they believe will be the most comprehensive evaluative tool on the market.

 “The HESTIA app will collect data on the client’s conditions, daily activities and environments in which those activities take place,” Pickens explains. “It will also have features to measure light, sound, distance, slope, as well as use photo and video capabilities along with web resources to develop interventions that will improve the client’s ability to live safely in his or her home.” These types of measurements can help clinicians change conditions if lighting isn’t adequate for a client to safely maneuver in a room or if a steep entrance slope puts a client at risk for a fall.

Today, one in five people in the United States have a disability, and there are 12.3 million individuals above the age of six who need assistance with their daily activities, such as eating, bathing or getting dressed. An increasing lifespan means that the population of elderly people in the country – many of whom have impairments – is expected to nearly double by 2030 to 71.5 million people. In a recent AARP Public Policy Institute survey, 87 percent of adults over 65 want to stay in their homes as they age.

“Despite the importance of home evaluations, most current evaluation tools are inefficient and outdated, relying on specialized practitioners toting a bag of tools and using time-consuming pen and paper assessments,” Pickens says. “The complexity of home evaluation requires the home evaluation expert to detail and integrate a myriad of factors that affect a person’s ability to live independently.”

The project team is now focusing on the reliability and validity of the tool, as well as its usability and utility. Pickens says TWU students will be using the app in the future to learn how to perform home safety evaluations and home modification recommendations. Pickens and the project team hope that HESTIA will help make “living in place” an easier and safer option for people throughout the country.

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Page last updated 1:15 PM, September 25, 2018