The Best Occupational Therapy Apps for Adult Rehab Patients
It’s no doubt that technology has forever changed the face of rehabilitation. The many new products that have entered the marketplace in the last ten years definitely offers our patients a wide variety of opportunities to find what they need.
Unfortunately, the downside of all these options is that many of our patients hit a brick wall when attempting to obtain the best quality of care due to information overload.
Many of these products are extremely expensive and simply not affordable for patients, especially if a new injury or diagnosis results in difficulty returning to work or causes a family financial hardship.
What resources can we provide our patients that are free (or inexpensive) that will promote enthusiasm and participation both in the clinic and at home?
The easy answer? Apps!
I should preface this article by acknowledging the plethora of occupational therapy apps available for pediatric use. Although I do use some children-based games to promote specific skills in treating adults with neurological conditions, the apps described will be focused primarily on appealing to the adult population. Peds OT’s—don’t hesitate to let us know what apps you love too!
Apps for adults in occupational therapy can generally be divided into four categories:
- Coordination training
- Visual training
- Cognitive training
Most of these apps are available on iTunes for Apple devices and on Google Play for Android devices. We want to note that none of these apps are sponsored and are recommended based on our own personal use.
1. Coordination Training Apps
Apps geared towards fine motor coordination are endless, as even the use of any smart phone for texting, etc., promotes some coordination training. There are a few, however, that provide a quality therapeutic opportunity.
Dexteria is a popular app that works well addressing fine motor and “dexterity” difficulties. This app can be used both therapeutically and within the clinic.
Items such as “Tap it” work on isolated or rapid finger movements. “Pinch it” can be used to improve coordinated thumb and 2nd digit movement toward a functional tip pinch. “Write it” provides an opportunity to practice coordinated movement (and isolated 2nd digit extension/positioning) when tracing various figures.
This app works well to address accuracy and speed of coordinated movement. This app can challenge a patient to move those fingers quickly and might also assist patients in returning to desired typing or work-related skills if they are struggling with newly-impaired coordinated finger movement.
ReHand is a Spanish app that provides specific finger exercises to improve ROM and coordinated or isolated movement. This app is sometimes presented initially in its original Spanish format; if you find this to be the case you can change the language to English easily by locating the “idioma” (language) link on the home page.
Currently, this app provides a free demo to patients and states to work through a doctor or therapist for the full version. I think this is a pretty awesome concept as it allows therapists to monitor patient progress and completion of exercises.
2. Visual Training Apps
Almost any game or app activity can promote desired visual processing skills, although there are a few apps out there that provide a more technical and professional service for oculomotor, visual attention, and processing skills.
This app is a very simple ocular pursuits app that provides a moving target for basic tracking. The target can be set to move in specific patterns or at random.
Some apps/games are more fun for patients to work on visual processing, problem solving, and pursuits at home.
Good options include Roll the Ball for solving patterns and moving pieces to let a ball roll freely from the initial piece to the ending piece.
Another is Tangrams which is an electronic version of the old-school popular child’s pattern toy using various shapes to form a larger more abstract shape.
Lastly, Flowfree is a spatial activity requiring users to connect same-colored dots without overlapping the connecting lines.
3. Cognition Apps
This may be the most useful cognitive therapy app out there, as it was created specifically for patients affected by stroke and TBI, as well as those living with aphasia, dementia and other neurological conditions.
Constant Therapy does come with a heftier price following the initial free trial, but it allows therapists to set up a specific program of exercises based on what an individual patient is struggling with (which sets it apart from other cognitive and “brain-building” apps). It also provides feedback and scores to monitor progress.
This is a great therapeutic tool to better align a cognitive home exercise program with therapy goals. It does require the therapist to form a clinical account separate from patient accounts.
Rehab coach is an app targeted more toward acute stroke recovery. Activity sections include math exercises, language, memory, perception, and drawing. A unique aspect is that it also includes facial exercises for patients with expressive aphasia. I include it here as it is promoted for stroke rehabilitation and I think it has the potential to continue to grow in the resources and activities provided.
Other cognitive apps include Train Your Brain, Left vs Right: Brain Games, and Elevate (among many others). These are all relatively higher-level cognitive apps that may best suited to assist patients post-discharge in continuing to work on their cognitive skills at home.
4. Exercise Apps
The majority of the exercise apps available are not specific toward therapy or the rehabilitation of specific skills. As a therapist, I would be hesitant to recommend an exercise app to patients as I need to prescribe specific exercises that improve their range of motion and strength. A patient using an app to complete exercises on their own may be more at risk for injuring themselves through completion of inappropriate exercises or poor positioning.
However, one occupational therapy geared app does exist that is an awesome resource especially for beginning therapists.
ViaTherapy was created to assist therapists with managing post-stroke rehabilitation. It initially asks clinical questions regarding the extent of available movement and shoulder pain. The app then provides a list of “protocols” and their recommended therapeutic consistency to help guide intervention recommendations.
Here’s the awesome part: for each type of intervention or protocol, it offers a very comprehensive list of outcome measures a therapist can use to monitor improvement. In a healthcare world where outcome measures rule, this is super helpful. Another huge plus: all of the interventions provided are based on clinical evidence and best practices
Apps are awesome as a way to send activities home with patients, and as more are constantly being created, therapists should do their best to continue to investigate their options.
What occupational therapy related apps do you use? Please share your favorites and your experiences with these apps in the comments below.
This post was originally published on January 13, 2020 and updated on January 28, 2022.