Life with MS

Improve Your Cognitive Challenges with Technology

By Joanne Fortunato

By Joanne Fortunato
While cognitive problems affect almost everyone as they age, the cognitive problems for MS patients are often more prevalent and life-altering. There is a lot of hype about using brain-training apps to improve cognitive difficulties. However, there is limited research to show that these apps actually change any physiological brain functioning. Added to that is the fact that they often have subscription fees. There are many other ways technology can help with the cognitive challenges you face on a daily basis.
Task and List Reminders
Writing lists and reminders on paper can present several drawbacks. First, paper often gets lost, misplaced, and/or forgotten. In addition, fine motor skills may be a problem. How many times have you written something down only not to be able to read it later?
Most mobile devices come with reminder/ list apps. If typing on your device presents difficulties, you can use voice commands to make the process very simple. As you think of things to do or items to add to a list you can just enter them on your device. If you depend on others for transportation, you can be ready with your list at a moment’s notice. Organize your lists into categories such as groceries, and household products. The lists can be color coded for ease of identification. Also, the items on your list can be reordered. For example, you can organize your grocery list by aisles in the store. If you repeat tasks on a regular basis, you can have these events automatically added.
The reminder part of this type of app is almost indispensable. You can set notifications to be reminded of tasks and appointments. The time, sound, and type of reminder are easily controlled. You can even set the reminder to text you when you need to be alerted. This type of app helps ensure that you and your caregiver can be more efficient and lowers frustration levels when running errands or performing tasks such as taking medication.
Keeping track of appointments and events can present unique challenges if you have cognitive issues. The calendar app makes this task a lot less daunting. Organizing events by color is a simple visual cue. For example, all medical appointments can be blue and all travel events can be black. Also, searching your calendar events makes tracking appointments a breeze. If you want to know how many visits you made to a particular doctor, a search of your calendar will list those appointments instantly. Calendars can be shared, making giving others a copy of your appointments easy. Events that are repeated can be entered once and then, based on your input, can be duplicated automatically. It can be a big stress reliever to know that someone else can help you keep track of your appointments.
Contact apps are similar to an address book, but are more efficient. No more cross-outs every time a contact changes a phone number or an address. You can add an email address, a ringtone, a picture, and a few other useful features. The picture and ringtone feature help to easily identify the caller if you have a hard time with this task. The note feature allows to you to add relevant information. Listing all your medical contacts in one list or group makes it easier for you or a caregiver to find needed information quickly. And searching your entire contact list is very simple. Contact apps make finding people and places amazingly simple.
Syncing Between Apps
The ability to synchronize information between apps is perhaps the biggest reason to organize electronically. In addition, many programs can access the organization apps mentioned previously. Email, phone and messaging apps are commonly used for this purpose. For example, when you are sending an email all you need to do is start the email address and it will access your contacts and pull up a contact that matches what you have typed. When you enter a name or place in your calendar, the address for the appointment is automatically added. Many third-party apps will access contacts, calendar, lists and reminders. Generally, you are asked for permission for access when installing the app.
Location Services and Backing Up
When you purchase your device location services are turned on. This means that your GPS location is used for such things as maps and photos. While this can be helpful, it should be used cautiously because of privacy and security concerns. In addition, using location services is a battery hog. You can turn on/off location for all apps or you can do this for apps individually.
Stick to your usual organization techniques until you feel comfortable with electronic methods. That way you lessen the risk of losing information. In addition, make sure you backup your information. IOS (Apple) and Android (Google, Samsung etc.) often provide space for holding your data. This is referred to as “the cloud.” This simply means you are given space on the company’s server. This can be accessed anytime you are connected to the Internet.
Electronic organization has many benefits for everyone, not just MS patients. Letting go of your old methods can be trying, but using technology can make simple tasks much easier and provide additional useful information. You and your family and/or caregivers will find that many serious complications can be avoided by having your information readily available.
Joanne Fortunato, BS, MA, is a retired computer technology teacher in Troy, N.Y. She has a master’s degree in education and has been teaching technology to teachers and students for 30 years. She has published several articles and books on educational computer technology, including several articles with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). She was diagnosed with MS in 2006 and uses technology to aid in coping with the many difficulties that MS can present. She is excited to share this information with others that deal with the same and many other issues on a daily basis. Contact Joanne at: