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United States Patent Application 20110302957
Kind Code A1
Hatem; Tracy McKie December 15, 2011

Communication system, device and method

Abstract

A communication system for conveying needs between two individuals who cannot verbally communicate with one another. The system is especially useful for use with incapacitated patients and includes a plurality of items which represent several conditions that the patients may experience and which may be corrected by a caregiver. The items are bound together such that an incapacitated patient may easily access an appropriate item and point to it to indicate to the caregiver that corrective action needs to be taken. In this manner, a communication system is developed between the incapacitated patient and the caregiver that does not rely on verbal communications.


Inventors: Hatem; Tracy McKie; (Norfolk, VA)
Serial No.: 199107
Series Code: 13
Filed: August 18, 2011

Current U.S. Class: 63/1.13
Class at Publication: 63/1.13
International Class: A44C 5/00 20060101 A44C005/00; A44C 15/00 20060101 A44C015/00


Claims



1. A communication system for incapacitated patients who cannot verbally communicate with a caregiver, said communication system comprising: a plurality of charms bound together, each charm having an individual shape such that an incapacitated patient can determine a shape of each by touching the charms and without seeing the charms, each charm representative of a condition that a patient may experience, the plurality of charms maintained near an incapacitated patient such that said incapacitated patient may easily access one or more of the plurality of charms to convey to a caregiver an adverse condition being experienced by the incapacitated patient by selecting a charm by tactile feel; and, an instruction manual having a key that explains the meaning of each charm, wherein said plurality of charms each having one or more meanings selected from a group consisting of a temperature in the incapacitated patient's room is too hot, the temperature in the incapacitated patient's room is too cold, the incapacitated patient is wet and needs to undertake a change of clothing, the incapacitated patient is in need of an object, where is a family member of the incapacitated patient, the incapacitated patient cannot reach a first object and needs assistance in retrieving the first object, the incapacitated patient has dropped a second object and cannot retrieve the second object, and the incapacitated patient wants a third object.

2. The communication system of claim 1 wherein said plurality of charms are bound together on a bracelet that is worn about the incapacitated patient's wrist.

3. The communication system of claim 1 wherein said plurality of charms are bound together on a necklace that is worn about the incapacitated patient's neck.

4. The communication system of claim 3 wherein said necklace comprises a bracelet and an add-on piece of wire having a split ring at one end and a catch at an opposite end.

5. The communication system of claim 1 wherein said plurality of charms include one or more selected from a group consisting of a hot pepper, an ice cube, a star, a teardrop, a doughnut, a heart and a hand.

6. A communication device comprising: a loop of material that is arranged around a part of a wearer's body; a plurality of trinkets arranged on the loop of material, each trinket having an individual shape and meaning to convey a need from the wearer of the communication device to an individual who can alleviate the need being experienced by the wearer; a plurality of beads separating each trinket of the plurality of trinkets such that the wearer may recognize each trinket through tactile feeling of the wearer's fingertips; and, an instruction manual providing a meaning that is associated with each of the trinkets and having the trinkets displayed thereon.

7. The communication system of claim 6 wherein said plurality of trinkets are bound together on a bracelet that is worn about the wearer's wrist.

8. The communication system of claim 6 wherein said plurality of trinkets are bound together on a necklace that is worn about the wearer's neck.

9. The communication system of claim 8 wherein said necklace comprises a bracelet and an add-on piece of wire having a split ring at one end and a catch at an opposite end.

10. The communication system of claim 6 wherein said plurality of trinkets include one or more selected from a group consisting of a hot pepper, an ice cube, a star, a teardrop, a doughnut, a heart and a hand.

11. The communication system of claim 6 wherein said plurality of beads comprises plastic beads.

12. The communication system of claim 6 wherein said plurality of beads comprises glass beads.

13. A method for providing a communication system between a caregiver and an incapacitated patient who cannot verbally communicate with the caregiver, said method comprising: providing an article of manufacture that includes a plurality of items that represent a variety of needs of a patient, said plurality of items include one or more selected from a group consisting of a hot pepper, an ice cube, a star, a teardrop, a doughnut, a heart and a hand, each item of the plurality of items having an unique shape that assists sight impaired incapacitated patients in identifying each item through tactile feel; providing an instruction guide on operating the communication system to the incapacitated patient and arranging for the instruction guide to be maintained within a room in which the patient is maintained; securing the article of manufacture to a particular part of the incapacitated patient that is within reach by the incapacitated patient; and, indicating through the incapacitated patient to the caregiver by touching or pointing towards an item of the article of manufacture to represent a particular need when an associated need is experienced by the incapacitated patient.

14. The method of claim 13 further including: providing instructions to the incapacitated patient through one of displaying the communication system to the user and placing the communication system into a hand of the incapacitated patient such that incapacitated patients who are visually impaired use tactile feel and an audible command from the caregiver to describe each item in the article of manufacture and associated meaning.

15. The method of claim 13 further including: the caregiver querying the incapacitated patient with a series of questions relating to a particular meaning of an item after the incapacitated patient has pointed towards or touched an item on the article of manufacture.
Description



[0001] There are no related patent applications.

[0002] The subject matter of the present invention did not receive federal government research and development funding.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Generally, the invention relates to a communication system for incapacitated or bed-ridden patients that cannot speak. More particularly, the invention is a device that includes a plurality of items that are bound together and easily accessible or worn by a patient. The items are preferably small ornaments, beads, charms or trinkets which are representative of a particular condition that the patient is experiencing or a specific need or group of needs that may be rapidly identified through use of the system. In a preferred embodiment, the plurality of items is arranged on a bracelet that is secure to the patient's arm. In another embodiment, the items may be arranged on the necklace or the like that is arranged around a body part that is easily accessible by the patient. The patient is initially taught simple word association for each item. The word associations are hot, cold, pain, wet, issues relating to the mouth, and relationship issues such as family and friends. Another item, a question generator, represents to the caregiver when the patient needs assistance in other matters such as when an object has been dropped and cannot be retrieved by the patient without aid from the caregiver. In this instance, the patient may touch the question generating item and the caregiver is then cued to pose a series of questions to the patient. Through a process of elimination, the caregiver narrows the patient's need to assist in providing comforting care to the patient. Preferably, one or more of the items relate to a patient's preferred temperature, a patient's pain level that is being experienced, bodily function issues such as the need for a change of clothes, underwear or bed linens, and relationship issues such as family and friends.

[0004] When the patient experiences an uncomfortable condition or experiences a need, he/she can easily convey the condition to a caregiver by pointing to or grasping the particular charm/item which has a predetermined meaning. In this manner, a caregiver can easily ascertain the needs of the patient. The caregiver can then meet the need or want of the patient or wearer.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0005] Many patients are incapacitated and cannot verbally communicate their needs to caregivers. For purposes of this disclosure, the term "incapacitated" refers to patients who cannot perform verbal communications with a caregiver. Also, the terms "items," "ornaments," "beads," "charms", and "trinkets" are used interchangeably and are those things secured to the device and which are representative of a particular condition that the wearer is experiencing. Incapacitated patients may include those who are on a ventilator or who have tubes running down their throat such that they may be unable to perform verbal communications with a caregiver or to freely move about a room. This inability to verbally communicate or move freely may result in the patient being uncomfortable or may even lead to the creation and continuation of other complications relating to the successful recovery of the patient. The communication system may also be useful in situations where a wearer is not able to verbally communicate his/her needs. Moreover, the instant invention may be useful for individuals who do not speak a particular language and may comprise items that have an international meaning.

[0006] Previously, incapacitated patients or patients who are on ventilators have used writing instruments and pads of paper to communicate particular needs such as whether they are cold or hot. Otherwise, a caregiver must question the patient with a series of questions to ascertain a particular need of the patient. This is an ineffective use of time and resources and tends to frustrate both the patient and caregiver when a patient's need cannot be properly served.

[0007] There is a need for a more effective method and system for communicating the needs of incapacitated patients to caregivers. Likewise, there is a need for an easy method and system for communicating between people who do not speak a common language. The instant invention solves both of these needs by providing a simple system and method for communicating between people who cannot verbally communicate with one another.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] In a preferred embodiment, the communication system comprises a bracelet containing various trinkets or charms which represent a specific need or group of needs. The caregiver and the wearer of the bracelet is taught a meaning of each particular bead or charm. For example, a charm such as a hot pepper may be attached to the bracelet to indicate that the room temperature of the patient's room is too hot. When a patient points to the hot pepper, the caregiver easily recognized the need to turn down the thermostat in the patient's room. Likewise, an ice cube charm may be included on the bracelet for indicating that the patient is cold. Other charms may be provided that a patient may touch to indicate a particular need including the need for oral care, thirst, hunger, pain medication or the like.

[0009] In the preferred embodiment, the communication system comprises a device, such as a bracelet or necklace, that forms a loop. The bracelet is preferably eight to ten inches in length and comprises a loop of material such as nylon coated multi-strand wire having a split ring at one end and a catch at the other. The catch engages the split ring to secure the bracelet about a patient's wrist. Glass or plastic beads may be included between each charm for providing a spacing that allows the patient to use tactile feel to determine the shape of a particular charm. This spacing of the charms also assists the visually impaired in using the device. The charms included on the bracelet may include a chili pepper, an ice cube, a star, a teardrop, a doughnut, a heart and a hand. The chili pepper indicates that the patient is hot. The ice cube indicates that the patient is too cold. The star indicates that the patient is in pain. The tear drop indicates that the patient is wet and needs to be changed. The doughnut indicates that the patient needs to receive oral care. The heart indicates that the patient is looking for a family member or friend. The hand indicates that the patient needs other assistance and operates as a general question triggering mechanism that causes the caregiver to query the patient with a series of questions. Preferably, each charm has a distinct shape, exclusive color and unique meaning.

[0010] Initially, the communication device is provided with an instruction manual or guide. This guide is preferably durable and may include a plastic or laminated sheet that operates as a key indicating the meaning of each charm and providing a series of questions that aid the caregiver in quickly identifying a problem that the patient is experiencing. The caregiver and wearer of the communication device learns the meaning or group of meanings of each charm by discussing the instruction manual. When the wearer desires to communicate a particular need, he/she touches the specific charm that is associated with the particular need when in the presence of the individual to whom the need is being conveyed. In instances where the charm represents a group of needs, the caregiver or one to whom the message is being conveyed may then proceed with a line of questions that narrows the alternate meanings down to a single request.

[0011] These questions may be provided in the instruction manual that is provided with the communication device. For example, when a patient points to a charm that indicates the patient is cold, the caregiver may respond with a question relating to whether the patient wants another blanket to cover the patient. Alternatively, the caregiver may ask the patient what are of the patient's body is cold. In this instance, the caregiver may point towards or touch the feet of the patient and wait for a nod, blink or other indication from the patient to indicate an answer.

[0012] In an instance when the patient has indicated that he/she is in pain, the caregiver may query the patient on how bad the pain is on a scale of one-to-ten, ascertain the location of the pain by pointing to, touching, or listing various parts of the patient's body and waiting for a response from the patient.

[0013] By pointing to or holding the doughnut trinket, the patient indicates that he/she is requesting that a task be performed in connection with the patient's mouth area. This may indicate that the patient is hungry, thirsty or needs oral care such as lip balm being placed on the lips of the patient to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with the tube that is inserted through the patient's mouth or nose. The caregiver may determine the message being conveyed by the patient by asking a series of questions relating to whether the patient is hungry, thirsty, in need of having a tube suctioned, needing lip balm applied or other oral care performed on the patient.

[0014] The patient indicates that he/she would like to know where his/her family or friends are located by pointing to or touching the heart charm. The caregiver may list the names of the family members or friends to identify particular individuals who the patient would like to see.

[0015] A hand ornament is used by the patient to indicate when he/she has dropped something or needs assistance from the caregiver in reaching something. This ornament may also indicate that the patient wants or desires something. In this instance, the caregiver may use questions provided in the manual to identify the specific need or request by having the patient indicate the general location of the object that he/she wishes to have retrieved. In this instance, the caregiver may ask the patient if the object is on the bed, in the room or outside of the room. The patient can indicate where the object is located and further questions and corresponding answers narrow the caregiver to a correct object.

[0016] Other items may be included in the device for conveying other messages to assist the caregiver in delivering services.

[0017] It should be noted that the communication system, bracelet or necklace, may also be worn by individuals who do not speak a common language. Each person can learn the meaning of each particular charm in their particular language and thereafter use the communication system or bracelet as a translation device to facilitate effective communications of their needs in the absence of a translator.

[0018] It is an object of the invention to provide a communications method and system whereby an incapacitated patient may easily convey a need or a plurality of needs to a caregiver by simply pointing to or holding a particular charm on a bracelet that indicates a particular need.

[0019] It is a further object of the invention to provide a communications system that incorporates a plurality of charms, trinkets, beads or the like that have a particular common meaning between a patient and a caregiver such that the patient can convey a need or group of needs to a caregiver by simply pointing to or holding one of the charms, trinkets, beads or the like.

[0020] It is a further object of the invention to provide a communication system that utilizes symbolic features to indicate a particular need without the use of verbal communications from the wearer.

[0021] It is a further object of the invention to provide a communication system that can convey needs between individuals who do not speak a common language.

[0022] These and other objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth, appear in part or become apparent after considering the specification and accompanying drawings. It is to be realized that the following embodiments of the invention have been represented in their simplest form for ease in understanding the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0023] FIG. 1 shows a preferred embodiment of the invention realized in a bracelet.

[0024] FIG. 2 shows a second embodiment of the invention realized in a necklace form.

[0025] FIG. 3 is an instruction guide for use in connection with the invention.

[0026] FIG. 4 shows the process steps in practicing the system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0027] The following is the preferred embodiment or best mode for carrying out the invention. It should be noted that this invention is not limited by the discussion of the preferred embodiment and should only be defined by the appended claims.

[0028] FIG. 1 is a preferred embodiment of the invention showing the use of a plurality of charms 10-16 that are included on a bracelet 1 to implement the communication system. In this embodiment, the communication system comprises a bracelet 1 that is preferably eight to ten inches in length and comprises a loop of material that extends through the beads 7. The loop of material may comprise a nylon coated multi-strand wire having a split ring 3 at one end and a catch 5 at the other. The catch 5 engages the split ring 3 to secure the bracelet 1 about a patient's wrist. The beads 7 may comprise glass or plastic and are preferably provided between each charm for providing a spacing that allows the patient to use tactile feel to determine the shape of a particular charm. The charms may comprise metal, plastic, glass or any other durable material that may be secure to the multi-strand wire.

[0029] The charms included on the bracelet 1 may include a chili pepper 10 that is used to indicate that the patient is too hot and needs the temperature of the patient's room to be cooled to a lower temperature. The chili pepper 10 may be red. However, it should be noted that other types of charms may be substituted for the chili pepper such as a flame trinket to indicate that the patient is hot. When a patient points to the chili pepper or touches it, the caregiver may lower the thermostat in the patient's room.

[0030] The ice cube 11 indicates that the patient is too cold. A snowflake trinket may be substituted for the ice cube. Preferably, the ice cube is blue in color to indicate cold. Other types of charms may be substituted for the ice cube 11. When a patient points to the ice cube 11, the caregiver may respond with a question relating to whether the patient wants another blanket to cover the patient. Alternatively, the caregiver may ask the patient what are of the patient's body is cold. In this instance, the caregiver may point towards or touch the feet of the patient and wait for a nod, blink or other indication from the patient to indicate an answer.

[0031] The star 12 indicates that the patient is in pain. In an instance when the patient has indicated that he/she is in pain, the caregiver may query the patient on how bad the pain is on a scale of one-to-ten, ascertain the location of the pain by pointing to, touching, or listing various parts of the patient's body and waiting for a response from the patient.

[0032] The tear drop 13 indicates that the patient needs is wet and needs to be changed. The caregiver can clean the patient, change the patient's clothing, and replace any soiled bed linens with clean ones when the patient points to the tear drop 13.

[0033] The doughnut 14 indicates that the patient has an oral need. By pointing to or holding the doughnut trinket, the patient indicates that he/she is requesting that a task be performed in connection with the patient's mouth area. This may indicate that the patient is hungry, thirsty or needs oral care such as lip balm being placed on the lips of the patient to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with the tube that is inserted through the patient's mouth or nose. The caregiver may determine the message being conveyed by the patient by asking a series of questions relating to whether the patient is hungry, thirsty, in need of having a tube suctioned, needing lip balm applied or other oral care performed on the patient.

[0034] The heart 15 indicates that the patient is looking for a family member or friend. The patient indicates that he/she would like to know where his/her family or friends are located by pointing to or touching the heart charm. The caregiver may list the names of the family members or friends to identify particular individuals who the patient would like to see.

[0035] The hand 16 indicates that the patient needs other assistance and operates as a general question triggering mechanism that causes the caregiver to query the patient with a series of questions. A hand ornament is used by the patient to indicate when he/she has dropped something or needs assistance from the caregiver in reaching something. This ornament may also indicate that the patient wants or desires something. In this instance, the caregiver may use questions provided in the manual to identify the specific need or request by having the patient indicate the general location of the object that he/she wishes to have retrieved. In this instance, the caregiver may ask the patient if the object is on the bed, in the room or outside of the room. The patient can indicate where the object is located and further questions and corresponding answers narrow the caregiver to a correct object. Preferably, each charm has a distinct shape, exclusive color and unique meaning.

[0036] In a second embodiment, the charms 10-16 are included on a necklace 2 that comprises the bracelet 1 and an add-on piece 20 of a nylon coated multi-strand wire 4 having a split ring 3 at one end and a catch 5 at the other. This add-on piece is preferably twelve to twenty inches in length and may comprise gold, silver, nylon or beaded wire. The split ring 3 and catch 5 on the add-on piece 20 mates with the catch 5 and the split ring 3 of the bracelet 1 to create the necklace 2 as shown.

[0037] FIG. 3 is an instruction manual 50 for use with the communication device. As shown, the bracelet 1 and its associated charms are reproduced on the instruction manual. A word is provided alongside every charm 10-16 for indicating a general meaning of each charm. Alongside the general meaning word, is a visual meaning for illiterate individuals or those who can no longer read because of an injury or an illness. Questions may be provided alongside the visual meaning for aiding the caregiver in ascertaining a problem being experienced by the patient.

[0038] FIG. 4 shows the process steps for practicing the communication system. The device 1 is produced with the necessary charms to aid the caregiver in providing adequate service to the patient. The device is provided to the patient along with the instruction guide. The caregiver and patient review the meanings provided with the instruction guide. When a need is experienced, the patient indicates the need to the caregiver by touching or pointing to the charm on the device. Questions from the manual are used by the caregiver to narrow down the problems associated with the patient.

[0039] While the invention has been described with respect to preferred embodiments, it is apparent to those skilled in the art that changes, modifications and additions may be made to the herein described embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense or use.

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