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.

Brain Games

One of the occupational therapists Jason worked with encouraged him to check out Lumosity as a tool for working his brain at home.

There are mixed reviews from scientists about if programs such as Lumosity work at improving intelligence or if it’s just a matter of getting quicker and more efficient at their games. I have no insight other than, the OT told Jason to do it and it’s an affordable enough treatment that he continues to do it. In fact we looked into a few options for training his brain (why do a little when you can do a lot right?).

Lumosity has an app for iphone and Android. The free version has 3 games a day which has been enough for Jason’s needs/attention span. There is a paid option that unlocks more games every day but it just doesn’t seem worth it when it’s important to limit screen time etc post injury.

Elevate is set up similarly, with 3 games a day for free and more if you purchase the premium edition. Again we haven’t felt the need because the free edition has been awesome.

Lumosity games seem to focus on spatial reasoning and flexible thinking whereas Elevate has more games focusing on spelling, grammar and reading. 3 games on each every day has provided a very well rounded brain workout in our home! It’s a popular business and I’m sure there are many other companies with apps out there but these ones work for us. I think the important piece with using these tools is self regulation – if the screen time gives you headaches or other symptoms this might not be a great option for you. It’s also important not to overdo it – if you spend an hour playing on your phone that is still an hour you aren’t doing other things that may be beneficial for your care. Exercise, hands on tasks and rest are all other practical ways of helping your brain recover that should not be forgotten just because you have your phone in hand!