Toronto Rehab receives multi-million
TORONTO – Toronto
Rehab researchers will receive $4.6 million from the Ontario Ministry of
Research and Innovation (MRI) to develop innovative assistive devices
and advanced technologies to help people care for clients, friends and
family at home.
Toronto Rehab engineers, computer scientists, designers and clinicians
will collaborate with industry leaders to design, develop, and bring new
products to market quickly and at a reasonable price to consumers.
After a hospital stay, more and more patients are opting to live and
receive care at home. Some will be cared for by professional caregivers,
but many others will be cared for by informal caregivers – wives,
husbands, other family members and friends. Both types of caregivers are
faced with the enormous physical demands of caring for someone in a home
“In-home caregivers experience an excessive burden managing the
physically demanding tasks of providing care”, says Geoff Fernie
(pictured), Toronto Rehab’s vice president of research. “This grant will
allow our researchers to address an urgent need to help caregivers with
the physically demanding tasks of lifting, moving, toileting, and
dressing the people they care for, as well as monitoring their safety.”
“Imagine, if you will, an elderly gentleman who is sent home after a
stroke. His elderly wife is faced with the challenge of lifting him out
of bed and onto the toilet, bathing him and helping him to dress. It is
easy to see how the physical effort can be too great,” explains Fernie.
The physical demands of caregiving are already recognized as major
challenges in hospitals, where nursing staff are known to experience
more injuries than any other occupational group.
“This problem pales in comparison to the situation in people’s homes,
where untrained family members are working in difficult spaces with
little or no equipment, and where professional caregivers are providing
care without assistance,” adds Fernie. “Many people who would like to be
cared for at home cannot be because family and other caregivers become
injured or disabled themselves and cannot continue to perform the
demanding physical tasks of caregiving.”
Statistics show that in Ontario almost a third of families have been
providing constant care for someone for over two years. Almost half of
family caregivers report a high level of physical and mental stress and
14 percent experience physical discomfort or pain.
The grant from MRI’s Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence Program
will fund the development of innovative products that will enable care
to be provided more easily and more safely in the home.
Products being developed include a lifting and moving device that
reduces the stress required to insert a lift sling under a person who
cannot walk and who needs to be carried to the washroom or positioned in
a wheelchair, and an advanced artificial intelligence system that will
monitor safety and increase independence by detecting when a person has
fallen and calling for help.
These and other products will be technologically advanced, practical,
easy to install without home modification, and affordable.
Initially, researchers will focus on developing four products. But as
soon as Toronto Rehab’s new state-of-the-art research facilities, iDAPT
(Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology) are
complete in early 2011, many more innovative technologies and assistive
devices will be designed and developed.
iDAPT’s highly specialized research laboratories, design studios and
rapid prototyping workshops will allow these products to be brought to
market quickly and cost-effectively.
“The innovative new products will also provide a boost to an important
emerging sector of our economy – the assistive devices industry, which
includes many relatively young, small and medium-sized companies with
high potential for growth,” says Bruno Maruzzo, commercialization
officer at Toronto Rehab. “The manufacturing of innovative technologies
will not only create new opportunities for economic growth but will also
generate a significant number of jobs.”
The need for homecare products has grown significantly. The Canadian
Home Care Association says that homecare is becoming the fastest growing
sector of the healthcare system in Canada.
“The demand for reliable and affordable homecare solutions will only
increase as the population ages and the incidence of chronic disease
rises. In Ontario, there is currently an increasing demand for hospital
and long-term care beds and an increase in wait times for both,” says
It is Fernie’s hope that this kind of research will not only address the
challenges of providing care at home but will also take some of the
pressure off hospitals and long-term care facilities.
“About one-third to one-half of individuals assessed as ‘high’ need for
long-term care placement in Toronto could be safely and cost-effectively
supported at home,” adds Fernie.
About Toronto Rehab
Toronto Rehab is at the forefront of one of the most important and
emerging frontiers in healthcare today – rehabilitation science. As a
fully affiliated teaching and research hospital of the University of
Toronto, Toronto Rehab is Canada’s largest academic provider of adult
rehabilitation services, complex continuing care and long-term care.
Toronto Rehab is advancing rehabilitation knowledge and practice through
research and education. More information is available at:
Posted March 11, 2010