Maintaining health becomes more difficult as we age. Our parents are not in their prime, and it can be a struggle to get them to take care of themselves. This is a big problem when it comes to surgeries and recovery, especially physical therapy. If there are exercises prescribed for your loved one to complete at home, there is a good chance that they will either choose not to complete them, or forget about them. On top of that, making sure they get to appointments can be difficult if the only person who can get them there — you— is busy with work and other responsibilities. As a result, many elderly patients do not receive the kind of care they need, and it can cause long-term effects.

This is where RespondWell comes in. RespondWell is a software that uses a Microsoft Kinect to monitor health. Your loved one sets up RespondWell and can use it to connect with a physician who can help them prepare for surgery and recover, all while at home. Through this program, the physician can assign exercises for your parent to complete, and the Kinect can measure how well they complete them. It will also pick up on any abnormalities in movement, and will report all of this data back to the physician.

One of the best parts of this system is the gamification of a monotonous task. Physical therapy exercises are typically repetitive, can be boring, and don’t entice patients. However, RespondWell runs, in many ways, more like a game than a regular PT session. Each person gets an avatar that mirrors their movement to show in real-time how they are doing. Furthermore, your parent will receive points based on how well they complete each exercise. Gamification has been shown to make nearly any boring task more interesting, and it is no different for our older loved ones.

Beyond that, doctors are able to keep records of treatment on a HIPAA-certified platform. As I said previously, each session’s data will be recorded and processed into the system, where doctors can determine any patterns of weakness or signs of progress. This can alert them to other possible conditions or the need to be seen in-person for more extensive treatment.

One reason RespondWell is becoming popular is the cost. While I could not find specific data on the price per session, it is considered more cost-effective than the average day at PT. This can give patients the incentive to take advantage of treatment, rather than avoiding it for fear of the bills.

Finally, if your loved one does not need surgery, but is at risk for falling, their doctor may prescribe exercises through RespondWell’s Fitness@Home program. These exercises are monitored similarly, but there is no specific end-goal, so this is a great option for keeping older folks in consistent good health.

Although RespondWell may not be right for everyone, it will certainly help those who are reluctant toward treatment or who live far from any PT facility. If your parent’s doctor is struggling to ensure treatment is effective, offer RespondWell as a suggestion and see if it can make a difference in your loved one’s life.