Apps can help MS patients and other disabled people with daily living

September 16, 2016
Mobile technology has revolutionized the way we work and live, and now it’s helping people with disabilities manage daily life and maintain their independence by assisting them in communicating, planning, completing crucial tasks, getting help in emergencies and more.

Touch-pad screens, instead of a keyboard and mouse, have made it easier for many people to navigate technology. Voice-control technologies allow users to dictate messages that are then converted to text on their devices. Conversely, touching visual picture buttons or pre-programmed buttons allows users to have their messages spoken by their devices. These functions are particularly helpful for people who have limited use of their hands or difficulties speaking.

Google glasses operate entirely hands-free and may eventually provide other applications for those with disabilities. And with further development of driverless cars, it may not be long before people who currently can’t drive will be able to get to places in their own cars. The possibilities seem endless.

What I have found in my work with patients at the Swedish MS Center is that apps can be extremely helpful, especially for patients who have cognitive challenges or emergencies. Patients often need reminders to take or refill their medications. Apps to help with schedules, organization and task completion are also useful. Apps also can alert others if you have fallen and are unable to call for help. Here are some apps that you might find helpful in your everyday life.

Medication reminder:

  • MediSafe (iOS and Android): MediSafe can manage medication for multiple people. It alerts you when it’s time to take your medications and when it’s time to renew your prescriptions. 
  • Pill Reminder (iOS): Pill Reminder alerts you when you need to take your medicine. It has a range of audible alerts and sounds, and keeps a history of when pills are taken or missed. You also can take photos of your pills so they are easy to recognize. The app features a built-in database of medications so you can look up information about dosage and side effects. Pill Reminder also alerts you when you need to refill a prescription.
  • MedCoach (iOS and Android): MedCoach helps you remember to take your medications and pills at the right time and on the right day. It keeps a record of pills you have taken. It automatically reminds you when you need to refill a medication and can connect directly to your pharmacy to refill your prescriptions. MedCoach also links to a medication database that provides information about the medications you are taking.

Task reminder:

  • It’s Done (iOS and Android): It’s Done helps you complete tasks throughout the day. After you finish a task, you tap ‘”done.” If you can’t remember whether you already did something, you can refer back to the app for confirmation. It’s Done can also send an email or text message to others when a task is done, so family members and caregivers know that certain work has been completed.
  • Finish (iOS): Finish is an app that helps procrastinators with to-do lists. What’s special about this app is the feeling of achievement it strives to give you. When you finish a task, simply swipe over the app to get a checkmark, along with a nice, rewarding sound. In addition, all of your completed tasks are automatically archived, so you can finally stop rifling through your laundry in search of those old paper lists. 
  • Priority Matrix (iOS and Android): Priority Matrix is a powerful, yet easy‐to‐use task‐management tool that's ideal for those who need to see their tasks written out. You can sort tasks into one of four categories: Critical and Immediate, Critical but not Immediate, Not Critical but Immediate and Uncategorized. Manipulate the size/colors of each section, add icons and select the percentage completed. You can create due dates, start dates and repeat dates with push notifications.
  • Voice Reminders (iOS and Android): Your reminders, in your voice and words, delivered on time. Remember everything, forget nothing with this voice “to‐do” list. Simply speak your personal memo, set the time and date, and be reminded in your voice. No need to type text.
  • Due (iOS and Android): A to‐do list might help you keep track of tasks, but only if you remember to look at it. Written notes can’t sound an alarm when it’s time to walk the dog or go to an appointment, but the Due app can. 

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Stepping Stones (iOS): Stepping Stones is a personal visual organizer for prompting daily routines and schedules. Designed for users with cognitive disabilities, this user‐friendly app helps build independence. The simple interface allows a caregiver to create a routine, or “path,” for the user to follow. The path then works as a reminder with visual and audio guides as prompts.
  • CanPlan (iOS): CanPlan promotes independence and builds confidence by helping people with cognitive challenges complete tasks successfully. Virtually any activity can be broken into a sequence of easy‐to‐follow steps, illustrated by photos and reinforced with optional text and audio. Scheduling and reminder features help ensure each task gets done on time.

Step-by-step planning guide:

  • GoalPlanDo (iOS): GoalPlanDo is a simplified method for completing a project. This step‐by‐ step method of planning guides the user with ease to execute a long-term project from conceptualization to completion. GoalPlanDo makes project management simple.

Memory collection:

  • CanJournal (iOS): CanJournal allows users with memory challenges to record events and activities and play them back later so they can recall their recent past. Users can record videos, shoot photos and then share their media. 

Mind mapping/graphic organizer:

  • Simple Mind (iOS and Android): A mind-mapping tool that turns your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch into a brainstorming, idea collection and thought-structuring device.
  • MindNode (iOS) : Mind maps are a visual representation of your ideas, starting with a central thought and growing from there. This app allows you to brainstorm and organize your thoughts in an intuitive way, so you can focus on the ideas behind them.

Time management:

  • 30/30 (iOS and Android): 30/30 allows you to set timers to complete specific tasks. The interface is innovative, allowing you to control the app easily with swipes and gestures. 30/30 can also give you a better understanding of how long it takes to do certain things. 
  • MIN TO GO (iOS and Android): MIN TO GO is a timer-and-alarm app featuring three pre‐alarm notifications. While most timers and alarms play lots of sounds, MIN TO GO will announce, "60 minutes to go," "15 minutes to go" and "five minutes to go." Each announcement begins with a few pleasant tones, followed by a calming female voice. The remaining minutes are displayed right on the app's icon.

Habit formation apps:

  • Home Routines (iOS and Android): Home Routines organizes your chores for you and breaks them into manageable room‐by‐room chunks, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. This app makes the mundane more fun by awarding you a gold star for each job you complete.
  • Coach.me (iOS and Android): Like a sticker chart for adults, Coach.me helps you build habits. The app combines social networking and a daily chart to help you track when and how often you're doing an action. The ability to tap into a supportive community to give or receive "props" (similar to a Facebook "like") increases the chance that you will take action.
  • Persistence (iOS): An easy-to-use goal and habit motivator and tracker. Smart reminders and views help you set and keep goals and track your habits. It’s quick and easy to update your progress and interact with your goal data in numerous ways. 

Word finding/aphasia apps:

  • Naming TherAppy (iOS and Android): Naming TherAppy is designed to facilitate word retrieval among children and adults who have word recall difficulties. It’s the best‐selling word‐finding app to help people with aphasia and children with special needs practice important naming and description skills.
  • iName (iOS): iName is specifically designed to help individuals with difficulty recalling the names of common items found in the home. Developed by speech‐language pathologists, iName provides users with a systematic way to recall functional words needed for activities of daily living.

Fall detection and assistance:

  • iFall (Android): iFall detects when someone as fallen. The person receives a prompt and has the opportunity to clear an alert. If there is no response, the app automatically notifies emergency contacts.
  • Fall Alert (Android): Fall Alert triggers an alarm if it detects that someone has fallen. It automatically sends a message as well as GPS coordinates to designated emergency contacts. You can also activate an emergency “panic” button to receive assistance.
  • Fall Safety Pro (iOS): This app uses a two-alarm system. Once it detects that someone has fallen, it will sound an initial alarm. You have 45 seconds to indicate that you are OK. If you don’t respond, then a second alarm goes off to help rescuers find your location. Designated emergency contacts are also alerted and given information about your location. 

Emergencies:

  • ICE — In Case of Emergency (iOS and Android): ICE allows you to store all of the information you might need in an emergency in one convenient location. This includes the names of doctors, medications, medical conditions, allergies, insurance information and more. You can also find hospitals nearby in case of an emergency. You can set this app to display on your lock screen so that emergency responders can get this information without your password. You can also link it to Smart911 so that if you call 911, the operator can get your medical information automatically.