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“I can’t live without my phone!” This is a phrase we often hear from friends and family. Love it or hate it our smartphones have become essential for modern living. We rely on our smartphones on a daily basis for many things from banking to fitness to socialising.

Smart Technology

Technology is certainly advancing, and the continuous developments create new opportunities for people who have suffered a brain injury. Smart technology can also support individuals with a brain injury to live more independently around their home. It is possible to control your home’s lighting, security and doors with an App. It is even possible to turn your heating on and off on your way home; or even from the comfort of your bed. Some of these Apps can be used via voice or facial recognition. All of this helps to provide a level of independence which may not be achievable otherwise.

Many Apps targeted for aiding rehabilitation following a brain injury have been developed by professionals. It is important to take some time to research and consider the reviews; as well as trying a few before finding the best fit for each individual.

Are Apps for me?

Apps are certainly not just for the younger generation; nor are they one size fits all. There are many to choose from; including both free and paid Apps. As most of us carry our phones with us at all times making Apps easily accessible.

It is important to find a few that work for you, your lifestyle and your rehabilitation goals. If you are someone who hasn’t tried Apps before, and you don’t know where to start, it can be helpful to get practical advice from a trained professional such as an assistive technology specialist or an occupational therapist.

There are a number of common effects of brain injury such as memory problems, cognitive impairments, communication and speech. Here are some Apps in these key areas that professionals we often work alongside have found useful to the clients that they work with.

Memory and Cognitive impairments

Disturbance of attention, memory, executive function and concentration are some common neurocognitive consequences of traumatic brain injuries. Typical problems can include struggling to follow a TV programme, read a book or preparing a meal. There are many Apps which offer “brain training” exercises, daily challenges and games to improve cognitive function. They start at different levels and assist to develop and improve cognitive impairment over time. The upside is that this is all easily accessible and can be completed in a comfortable environment and at any time that suits you. It can also supplement any ongoing rehabilitation treatment that an individual may already be receiving.

Apps can be a great way to support memory function. You can fairly easily set up reminders on your calendar for appointments or tasks that you have to do each day. You can even use Apps for specific tasks such as a medication reminder to prompt you to take your medication and which medication to take.

Paul Doyle is an Assistive Technology Consultant. He often provides consultancy services for individuals to develop and implement assisted living solutions.

Paul comments that certain brain injuries can often result in a person struggling with self motivation, with the ability to initiate activities or conversation being severely impaired post injury. Likewise, some brain injuries result in a reduction in their executive function, a person’s lack of coping skills, their capacity to manage their emotions and reactions in a stressful or unplanned situation which can lead to an individual suffering a “meltdown”. An outcome that is distressing both to the individual and the observer.

Several innovative companies have developed dedicated Apps to help brain injured individuals regain their independence, whether they are hoping to return to travelling on their own or learning how to cope with unscheduled events or challenges encountered during their day.

  • Brain in Hand This is an App based self-management support system for people who need help remembering things, making decisions, planning or managing anxiety. It’s not condition-specific but is often used by people with executive function and emotional regulation difficulties or those who are managing mental health challenges. Combining human support and digital self-management technology, Brain in Hand helps people live more independently.
  • HandiCalendar is an App based aid that helps users know what needs to be done and ensures that they get started on their activities. Being able to perform various activities independently often leads to a greater sense of self-confidence. The integral calendar gives users an overview of their day, week and month. Users receive clear alarms when their activities begin and end. To each activity, users can link additional information, such as a checklist or a phone number. For iOS users they can also see their calendar on an Apple Watch and view their activities when their mobile phone is unavailable, such as when exercising, in a lecture or at a meeting.
  • WaytoB is a smartphone and smartwatch-based solution designed to enable people with higher support needs and cognitive challenges to travel independently. It does not use traditional phone based maps, Instead intuitive icons displayed on the accompanying smart watch which indicates when and where to turn, cross the road, get on/off the bus.
    Family members or carers can monitor the user’s location, heart-rate and battery life. Personalised alerts can be tailored to provide automatic alerts if a user deviates from their route or stops for too long.

Communication

Changes to an injured person’s ability to communicate can be very confusing and overwhelming. Severely brain injured clients can often struggle to understand what has happened to them and not being able to communicate these feelings can be frightening.

There are useful Apps which can support communications such as text to speech. This is particularly beneficial for people who also have sensory problems in their hands as a result of their injuries.

Jo Frost is a Speech and Language Therapist with clinical expertise in assisting adults who have communication and/or swallowing disorders following a brain injury.

Jo comments that when someone is suffering from a communication difficulty as a result of a brain injury, it is important to understand the nature and extent of that difficulty to be sure that you are accessing an App that will be supportive and helpful and not one that a person may find too complex and frustrating.

Apps can be used to support someone’s understanding by providing them which pictures and words, and they can provide a spoken message for someone whose speech is difficult to understand. They can provide therapy exercises for people to practice outside of therapy sessions.

Below is a small selection of Apps that can support communication (both speaking and understanding). There are many Apps to choose from and a speech and language therapist will be best placed to advise on which Apps are likely to be helpful and show you how to get the most out of them.

  • Alpha topics – this App from Tactus has an alphabet chart, list of categories and a white board. It has spoken output. It’s an excellent quick resource to have on your phone or iPad to support someone with communication difficulties.
  • Speech Assist – this free App has a range of pre stored words and phrases with spoken output. It’s also fully customisable so you can pre-program words that are specific to a family member.
  • Small talk (Lingraphica) – has a variety of free Apps that can act as a communication aid or practice materials for people with communication impairments. They also have helpful videos showing someone saying aloud the words and phrases. The collection includes oral motor exercises, conversational phrases and daily activities. There’s also an intensive care App and a pain scale App.
  • The Noun Project – this has “photos and icons for everything”! It is brilliant for making personalised communication aids and having pictures to help understanding which are easily accessible on your phone.
  • Tactus therapy solutions (paid for App) – this company make an array of excellent quality therapy Apps that enable people to customise a particular speech or language therapy target so that an individual can practice outside of therapy sessions. It has applications to help comprehension, dyspraxia, conversation, word finding, dysphagia, reading and writing.

Whilst Apps are a great way to increase independence and support rehabilitation, it is important to note that people with brain injuries shouldn’t rely exclusively on Apps and should continue to seek guidance from professionals, as required for their rehabilitation.


Produced by Vindika Jasinghe, Chartered Legal Executive at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors

Vindika specialises in serious orthopaedic injuries, brain injuries and complex fatal accidents. She is dedicated to achieving the best possible outcomes on behalf of her clients and to provide the expert hand-holding, human touch approach that her clients and their families need during their rehabilitation process. Vindika is based in Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham Serious Injury Team who routinely secure settlements in excess of £1 million on behalf of their clients.

How can Brain Injury Group help?

Brain Injury Group is a network of approved personal injury solicitors with brain injury expertise. Moreover, our member firms have the complex injury experience to get the best possible rehabilitation and compensation for brain injuries.

Brain injury rehabilitation is important; to us, to our members, to you and towards getting the best outcome. We can help get you that best outcome. Get in touch to find out more from our brain injury experts.

Contact us – to get in touch you can either:

  1. Call us on 0800 612 9660 or 03303 112541
  2. Email us at enquiries@braininjurygroup.co.uk
  3. Complete this short enquiry form and we’ll get back to you
  4. Find a specialist brain injury solicitor near to you
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