There’s an app for that: Living in place safely

Posted on May 22, 2017
HESTIA app being used

As we age, or if our abilities change, our environments need to adapt as well. Many people with limitations live in environments that pose safety issues or that are not fit for the resident’s needs. Because of this, occupational therapists and clinicians often do home assessments for clients whose homes do not fully fit their needs.

Currently, home evaluations typically happen with pen and paper, and contain different information depending on who wrote them. Results can be inconsistent and reports incomplete.

HESTIA is seeking to change that.

HESTIA is an acronym for Home Evaluation with a Strategic Triangulating Integrative Approach. Hestia also is the Greek goddess of home and hearth.

A revolutionized approach to home assessments

HESTIA, a project by the UWM Rehabilitation, Research, Disability & Design (R2D2) Center, will be a mobile app designed to revolutionize the process of home assessments. Once completed, occupational and physical therapists, or other trained practitioners, will input information into HESTIA as they move through a person’s home, adding all the same information as the pen-and-paper approach, but in greater detail and in a standardized format.

These home evaluations assess things like narrow doorways, poor lighting, missing handrails, tripping hazards and more. HESTIA presents these aspects of the home to the user in bite-sized pieces, and asks them to score how problematic that item is to the safety of the resident. It will also allow the user to skip entire sections that are not applicable to the home, and to add as much or as little detail as they see fit, using photos, videos, notes and drawings.

The benefits of HESTIA

What makes HESTIA stand out among its competitors is that it is efficient. It will anticipate future answers based on information already inputted, and thus saving time. Additionally, it will help to prioritize the results of the assessment based on urgency or budget, so that the resident can make the most impactful changes first.

Some solutions are simple—like placing frequently used items on a lower shelf—while others require renovation. Some of the recommendations might include building new steps leading up to the house, changing the labeling on appliances or installing carefully located light fixtures.

“The R2D2 Center is perfectly positioned to contribute expertise in universal design, accessibility and assistive technology. We have the right mix of engineering, disability clinical and research expertise from academic and community-based perspectives,” said Roger O. Smith, Ph.D., OT, FAOTA, RESNA Fellow and R2D2 Center Director.

In addition to designers and researchers at R2D2, the HESTIA team includes collaborators at Temple University (Philadelphia, Pa.), Texas Women’s University (Denton, Texas) and Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, S.C.).

The app is currently moving from the design phase into development. Over the last few months, focus groups have been conducted to get feedback from the target users to ensure that it meets the needs of the practitioners.