Life with MS

Simple Technology to Make Life Easier

By Joanne Fortunato
Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it can be overwhelming and daunting. There are new and amazingly sophisticated devices available, but at their core, many of the applications on these devices are still simple to use and can affect your life in a meaningful way. The hard part is to wade through all the hype and harness the power of these gems. This article will highlight a few applications and explain how they can improve your quality of life. The applications highlighted are available for almost any current device at little or no cost.

Marking time

The simplest and most basic application to use is the calendar, but it is one of the most overlooked apps. The calendar that comes preinstalled on most new devices is adequate at best. For a small fee, generally under $10, you can purchase a calendar loaded with features that make organizing your life efficient and easy.

Most calendar apps come with a color coding feature that is often untapped. This simple feature makes it easy to see what type of appointment you have at a glance. It works especially great for doctor/health appointments. In some cases, an appointment may be recorded in the calendar right from an email or a medical portal. Most calendars tie in to your contacts so you can enter location and phone number right in the calendar. In addition, calendars can be shared and synced with family or caregivers. This is extremely useful, especially if you depend on them for transportation.

Google calendar is a great choice for any device. You do need a Google account to use it, which is free, but it works with iCloud as well. It is powerful and user friendly. One thing to be aware of: you have to share information with Google. A simple search for calendar apps in Apple App store or Google Play will yield great results. Spend some time trying a few to find the one that you like.

One of the best features that smart devices offer is the ability to communicate with friends and family. If you have family that lives apart from you, traveling to visit them may be difficult. Video chatting on a smart device is easy and free. Many people already take advantage of this feature but it is often hard to see a video on a tablet or a phone, and usually only one person can see the device at a time. The two apps most often used are FaceTime or Skype. FaceTime only works with Apple devices, however Skype works across all platforms. You and whomever you wish to video chat with do need a Skype account, which is free. It is also relatively simple to hook up a tablet or a phone to a TV. A smart TV already has a capability to sync with a phone or tablet. For a nonsmart TV, it is not expensive to use a third party device such as Apple TV, Roku or Chromecast. All this is done wirelessly, so no long, unwieldy cable is needed.

The smart home

In today's Jetsons-like world of technology things such as lights, thermostats, and appliances can be easily controlled with voice activation or by clicking an app on a phone or a tablet. Aside from the cool factor, smart devices are very practical and are especially useful for someone with MS. For example, the ability to to turn on the lights before entering a house or a room can make you feel much safer. If mobility is an issue, being able to control thermostats and other everyday devices, without having to move, can make things more manageable. Smart home technology is a great way to customize a home to make living with anyone with MS safer and more comfortable.

The simplest way to enter a smart home market is to buy a smart home starter kit. For $100 – $300 you can get a kit. Buying a kit is cheaper than buying devices separately and eliminates compatibility issues. For a list of kit options, go to and search for smart home starter kits. Some kits require more tech savviness than others. If you are not tech savvy, make sure the kit you choose has a simple step-by-step set-up and is user friendly. Be sure to check what additional products are available. The kit should be scalable and have a lot of additional compatible products available.

That’s entertainment

Getting digital entertainment such as eBooks, audiobooks and videos is relatively simple. All you need is an internet connection and a mobile device such as a phone or a tablet. Now that digital delivery is so common, many sites have a large selection from which to choose, including recently published material. There are several advantages of using digital media. The first one is that you can retrieve material from any location with just an Internet connection. This not only means at home, but also when you are away from home on vacation or visiting friends and family. Another key feature is the ability to change font size, background color, word spacing, and other aspects of display to make reading easier.

There are several ways to get digital entertainment. Barnes and Noble, Amazon (Kindle), and iBooks (Apple) are common apps that are used. However, these suppliers usually charge to rent or buy the material. A local library, on the other hand, allows borrowing of the same material. The policy to borrow material is typically similar to the library's hard copy borrowing policies. Adobe OverDrive is the app that almost all libraries use to obtain digital material. Most libraries offer training on how to use OverDrive. Setting up an account with Adobe is free and the process is straightforward. In addition, while reading connected to the internet, you can look up words with just a click on the word. The internet connection is not necessary to use the material, because it is temporarily downloaded to the device being used. It is returned automatically or you can return it early if you are done sooner. If you can't get to your local library, you can bring the library to you by accessing a large collection of
digital material available that includes audio books, videos and magazines.

Today's devices are very sophisticated, but they are also designed with features that make them accessible for users with special needs. It is well worth the time to explore these features. You will be pleasantly surprised.