[toc]A Henderson, NV rehabilitation center is bringing some of the glamour of the Las Vegas Strip to its patients. HealthSouth Las Vegas is using video poker as a motivational and rehabilitation tool.
Video poker machines help build stamina
Most people would describe video poker as a sedentary activity. For patients in the rehab center though, simply standing and playing video poker can function as important physical therapy.
“Sometimes we’ll have patients stand and play the video poker machines to work on standing tolerance,” Sandy McGinnis, one of the hospital’s occupational therapists, told the Las Vegas Sun. “We can also have them put wrist weights on, and they’re playing for a whole 15 minutes (a session). It can get you tired after doing it for 15 minutes.”
Angela Ingerson is a patient at the facility who uses the video poker machine as part of her therapy. She told KTNV News “The first time, I stood up for a little bit, but then I had to sit back down because I was too tired.”
Ingerson is currently recovering from pneumonia and working towards getting back to good health.
The hospital’s CEO purchased the two machines for $1 each, and the patients are getting plenty of bang for his buck already. The video poker makes the physical therapy process fun. Ingerson reiterated the distraction of the game helps her keep her mind off the fact she is exerting herself.
Playing gambling machines can improve brain health
The physical element of playing video poker is just one aspect of the therapy though. Staff at HealthSouth also say the gaming helps with mental acuity.
“What we’re really looking to improve with the games are executive-functioning skills,” McGinnis said. “The things we are really addressing with that are attention, mental flexibility, self-regulation and working memory.”
Some Alzheimer’s Disease researchers suggest playing strategy games like poker can possibly reduce chances of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia in advanced age. Granted, actual poker is substantially different than video poker. However, it is yet another example of the positive side of casino games when it comes to general health.
“One of the areas (of the brain) we know is stimulated by gambling is the prefrontal cortex. The frontal lobes of the brain can be damaged by traumatic injuries; they can be damaged by substance abuse; they can be damaged by strokes,” HealthSouth team leader Sarah Tempest explained.
Casino games part of real world therapy strategy
The two play-for-fun video poker machines are just one example of the more unconventional therapies HealthSouth offers. The hospital tries to integrate several real world elements into the rehabilitation process. The facility also has a small, fake grocery store.
Patients can go to the store and stimulate the brain by making decisions of what to buy or making lists of what items they need. The simulation is great for patients recovering from brain injuries who need to improve recall and focus.
Another fun option for patients is skeeball and air hockey. Like the video poker, these games also distract patients from the physical labor of the activity they are doing. Instead, they focus on the fun and competitive elements of the arcade games. Experts say unless you are an athlete in serious training, distractions like these are going to help your efforts to improve your fitness level.