Our Home – the app that helps

As I start to get back into writing I have a whole folder on my computer of articles I want to share and discuss and studies that are being published. Today though I want to start with discussing an app we found just before Christmas that has been a huge help.

We’ve discussed previously how post TBI initiation and memory can prove challenging and for a long time I felt like Jason’s mother constantly advising him on what he needed to do each day and when. It does not make for a good relationship when one is always in control and neither of us loved the arrangement. We have various lists and routines around the house that took some of the burden off of me, but weird one off tasks or phone calls were still falling through the cracks regularly. We needed something we could both access, when we were at home AND away from home and that we would both use. It’s a pretty tall order.

OurHome is an app that is free to download on itunes and Google Play and allows members of a household to share to do lists and grocery lists. I know there are tons of apps out there that sound similar but this one has the unique feature of awarding points (determined by you) for tasks and then those points can be redeemed for points (again, determined by you).

OurHome met our needs.

  1. We both needed to be able to access it, at home and away from home. This one is pretty obvious – download the app to each of your phones. Take your phone with you when you leave the house. OurHome allows you to set up a family account and you can each add tasks to each others lists, put in due dates and assign points. The app seems to automatically assign points in relation to the time it should take to complete the task but this can be changed to make important tasks more valuable. Being able to access  the app anytime and anywhere has meant fewer tasks get forgotten. We’ve all had that moment where you are at the gym and suddenly remember you need to take meat out for dinner right? Now I can actually write that down quickly and it actually happens when I get home.
  2. We needed to use the app. Here’s  the issue with pretty much any coping strategy that is suggested to those with TBI’s. They only work as well as you make them. Lists, phone alarms, pneumonic devices – they may all help but you need to do the work to use them. When Jason is already tired and struggling with cognitive skills he often won’t remember that he needs to check the list or he’ll swipe away his phone alarm without changing tasks. The possibility for these limitations is still there with OurHome but the incentive of having points and rewards really minimizes how often things are forgotten. As a family you set up your own rewards, for us things like getting a new tea or a no alarm day are extremely valuable and so take more points to achieve.
  3. We wanted to feel like a couple of adults again. It’s very hard to feel like one partner is the parent and one is a child in day to day life. When I presented this app to some other TBI families they brought up the fact that it would seem condescending to bribe your husband to do chores. I have to say, that is not the dynamic in our relationship and it probably has everything to do with how you approach the app as a family. Jason and I both use the app, we both have the ability to add and remove tasks and determine our own rewards. Rather than feeling like a manipulative tool it feels like a good way to keep our life on track and get some well deserved me-time/tea/treats/fun activities.

The reality of change

It’s been ages. Nearly two months since I last wrote, and I had expected to be back writing every day with this move.  I expected life to be easy and that I would have all sorts of free time and I would write and knit and workout and find some balance again.

Clearly I never looked logically at the realities of moving, let alone moving with a spouse with a TBI. So here is the reality,

This move has accomplished a lot of what we thought it would. It removed the financial strain of living with one spouse on disability. It gave us a new house and town to build happy memories in. It has allowed us to meet new people and not get the awkward “aren’t you better yet?” question. We have room to grow in this house. We have room for friends and family. We have had more ridiculously happy and in love days than we ever had that first year.

We also spent a lot of time painting and unpacking boxes. I personally spent a lot of time getting lost on the way to the grocery store or home from work because my geography skills didn’t magically appear by moving. We spend a lot of time watching deer play in our yard, or being stuck in the car as they lazily wander in front of us on the road. We sleep. Personally I sleep like I’m trying to make up for every late night in my life.  When I pictured our move I didn’t spend time thinking about the real life things that would eat away at time.

Our first month reminded me of how many coping strategies we had in place at our old house. Lists, and systems and routines. We lived with them for so long they were really second nature and when we moved we did not prioritize putting them in place again. Without a daily list and organization in the house and a routine it became very apparent how much Jason still suffers with his lack of ability to prioritize, to focus. His energy levels took a hit because every single thing we did every day was a new experience to process, new directions, new stores, new neighbours. Again, all of these things were foreseeable, I just didn’t spend time planning for them.

Unforeseeable things happened too. A friend of Jason’s was killed in a school shooting and we were reminded that the world isn’t necessarily safe. It was a feeling we lived with for ages after Jason’s attack but at some point it stopped being a part of us. Then with his friend’s death we were on edge again, wary of people, happy to stay together in our home. Those feelings passed quicker this time, we’re back to happily meeting people, but that anxiety was palpable for a week or two. Jason was also approached by his alma mater to give a talk on being a successful graduate that has found work in his field. He turned it down because living on disability doesn’t scream success, although I would argue his ability to cope with this last 19 months is extremely successful, even if not the requirements they were looking for specifically. Jason  handled the situation with grace and kindness towards himself.  I was knocked off my axis with grief. It’s not very often we think of what the brain injury means for work or what scientific developments he’s missing in the office. But when we realize it, it is  a sharp, terrible hurt.

And so two-ish months into our move: we are more happy than sad, more settled than anything. We’re still learning and seeing how TBI is a part of our life, but it feels like a smaller part. We have half written blog posts galore to clean up with updates on treatments and new articles and I truly hope we get back to sharing our experiences to help others. Thank you for your comments and kind emails of support as we’ve transitioned, I hope to be connecting with all of you again soon.