More and more people who live with memory and cognitive impairments are turning to smart phone apps as a tool, an aid, a crutch, in hopes of helping them remember, stay on track and take control of their day-to-day life. I am one of those people (click here to read my full story) and in this blog I will explain the fundamentals of why popular calendar & reminder apps like Apple iCal, Apple Reminders, Google Calendar, don’t work for us.
The main flaw with all these apps is they were made by people with healthy brains, for people with healthy brains, which means they were not built with us in mind – they don’t understand what it’s like to live with executive dysfunction, memory or cognitive impairments. To be fair, how can they? You can only truly understand it when you live with it. These apps, although sufficient enough for the average user, lacks the fundamental ability to get us to start something, follow-through with it, and not forget along the way.
Usability is EVERYTHING
First, lets understand what “Usability” means: Usability means that the people who use a product can do so quickly and easily to accomplish their own tasks.– Janice (Ginny) Redish and Joseph Dumas, A Practical Guide to Usability Testing, 1999, p. 4
Usability is the difference between a user adopting a product vs. abandoning a product. If a product does not help a user accomplish their own task, then it has failed. This concept is especially true when it comes to our population of users. People living with Brain Injuries, ADHD, Alzheimers, Dementia, etc., have a real need for products that assist in their day-to-day living, especially when it comes to managing it and getting things done.
Let’s look at an example. Lets look at a daily task like taking medication. As you can imagine, this could become quite challenging for our users. Here’s a simple example of what happens to Johnny when he tries to manage his medication using an app that wasn’t built for him:
8:00AM – Johnny receives an alert on his Smartphone reminding him to take his medication. Johnny has 2 options to choose from:
OPTION 1: stop what he’s doing and take immediate action. Healthcare professionals often offer this as a strategy to help us get things done. I understand the theory behind it and how it makes logical sense on paper. But when applied to real life, this theory is full of flaws. First, it’s impossible to predict and deliver alerts for events at the exact moment they are needed. Secondly, asking us to stop what we’re doing and move onto another task is adding to our chaos. Option 1 actually fights against us. Now you’re introducing a new tool that will distract us even more and continuously take us off task. It’s not practical and is not a solution we can rely on.
OPTION 2: Johnny relies on himself to remember later. Well… we can all guess what happens next… The scary thing is, sometimes it only takes a few minutes to forget all about it. This option is NOT recommended. Let’s see what happens to Johnny next.
8:06AM – The thought of medication has left Johnny’s mind.
So, where does this leave us? It leaves us in a place of uncertainty, chaos and a feeling of having no control. You see, whether you use the app(s) above or not, the results for Johnny are still the same. He still forgets and he doesn’t get things done, even though he was reminded. It’s not Johnny fault, he is trying his hardest, but this is Johnny’s new reality.
It took me a long time to realize I was still very capable of doing the things I wanted to do, and it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t remember or carry through. I was just using the wrong tools….that’s why I created Qcard.
How Qcard Adapts To Johnny
8:00AM – Johnny receives an alert from Qcard on his SmartPhone reminding him to take his medication. Johnny can relax… he doesn’t need to take immediate action… he doesn’t have to stop what he’s doing… heck, he can even ignore it if he wishes… because Johnny knows and feels secure that Qcard will not let him forget.
8:01AM – Qcard reminds Johnny again.
8:02AM – Another reminder. Still not ready Johnny? No problem.
8:03AM – Another reminder from Qcard. Are you still there Johnny?
8:04AM – “Ya I’m still here Qcard. I’ll get to you in a minute” replies Johnny
8:05AM – yet another reminder from Qcard. “Okay, okay… I’m still not ready Qcard. Remind me again in 15 minutes please” replies Johnny
(15 minutes later)
8:20AM – Hey Johnny, are you ready to take your meds now?
8:21AM – I’m on my way Qcard
8:22AM – SUCCESS! – Johnny takes his meds.
This is a great example of how the orange Reminder Qcard was designed to be used in everyday life. It’s not about “remind Johnny to take meds NOW”… instead, lets “remind Johnny to START THINKING about taking his meds”, and allow him to control the task at his own pace.
- Qcard gave Johnny the flexibility to manage the task in that moment
- Qcard allowed him to continue working on his current task and remained in the background to ensure he would not forget
- Qcard worked with Johnny’s ‘lack of initiation’ and allowed him the freedom to take control of the task
- Qcard gives Johnny the independence and confidence he needs to succeed. Johnny feels good.
Which brings us to the next point, what happens later in the day when something triggers the thought “did I take my meds this morning?“. Normally, Johnny would stress over thinking, analyzing, searching for some clue that might link to some distant memory of his morning. Well, with Qcard there’s no more guessing… no more analyzing… no more searching through foggy memories… Qcard is a life saver – that’s right, Qcard saves and archives only the things you complete in life.
Johnny looks at Qcard and is confident he took his meds at 8:22AM this morning – Johnny is reassured. With Qcard, Johnny will never double dose, miss another dose or doubt himself ever again. Johnny ♥ Qcard.