The ASHA LeaderLive Speech-Language Pathology December 2021

A Smartphone for Memory—and Lots of TLC

When her mother needed help with cognition due to a brain injury from a serious car accident, an SLP turned to everyday tech for assistance.

December 2, 2021
Lewis Johnson, Sandra Johnson, and Katandria Love Demps

In July 2015, my parents, Lewis and Sandra Johnson, were in a head-on collision. My father had third-degree burns. My mother sustained diffuse axonal bilateral frontal lobe head trauma after being ejected from the vehicle onto the freeway guardrail. For six months, my brother and I triaged their medical needs in two out-of-state hospitals. After several surgeries and months of rehabilitation, my parents moved from my brother’s Arkansas residence to my Texas residence.

My father, now a double-amputee, drives daily in his unmodified car, overseeing his business that assists medical facilities with Joint Commission readiness. Together, my parents independently travel for activities of daily living (ADLs), including medical appointments, and enjoy retired life as proud grandparents of seven.

Since the accident, my mother has made tremendous gains in her memory and cognition. The rehabilitation experience was quite emotional for me and my family. As a health care provider for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families, it was tearful and gut-wrenching for me to see my mother, a college counselor, struggling to orient to the time of day and recognize family members. With experience from my international and local professional practice with the TBI population, I implemented evidence-based interventions to address my mother’s memory and cognition deficits by using everyday smart devices to support her daily tasks.

I used alerts on my mother’s iPhone to help her remember scheduled appointments. Typing was difficult—she had a cataract in her right eye and a left orbital blow-out—so I helped her learn to use her smartphone’s talk-to-text feature. We used the notes section to make grocery lists and record username and password data. The alarm helped her keep track of timed tasks such as cooking and walking.

At times, my mother would be anxious about a date, such as dinner and a movie. She didn’t remember what time she needed to be ready to leave the house. The iPhone timer helped remind her when it was time to get in the car and go to the event.

Because of her short-term memory issues, my mother uses Amazon Echo at home to help her complete her ADLs. She uses it to confirm package arrivals and check the weather, date, and time. The Amazon Echo Dot in her room plays classical music, which assists with her Advanced Brain Technologies Listening Program therapy.

To help her find her often-misplaced phone, I paired her iPhone with the iWatch. The health app also monitors her heart rate and helps her communicate when she is not feeling well. She uses it to monitor her calorie burn from her workouts at a senior community center—the data automatically posts on her iPhone.

Through my journey, I have grown to be more empathetic toward my clients and their families dealing with TBI. Being a family member and legal guardian of a loved one with TBI, I know firsthand the difference between being empathetic and sympathetic in my daily practice. As interim program director for the International Institute for the Brain (iBRAIN), I am honored and privileged to implement my personal life experiences within the community I serve. I hope others can incorporate these simple ways to improve quality of life outcomes for the TBI population.

Katandria Love Demps, MS, MA, CCC-SLP, is the interim program director and director of related services for iBRAIN. She is the CEO and clinical director of K&K Services, Dr. Love’s Healthcare, Integrative Nutrition & Lifestyle Medicine, & KLD Consulting. [email protected]

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