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  • Writer's pictureGregan McMahon

Remind me, to remind myself, to remind me.

Despite the fact that smartphone-based calendars and reminders are available to nearly everyone in our highly connected world I still find lots of participants and their support workers are using paper-based system to keep track of their lives.

This is especially true of participants with memory and information retention issues.

While this surprised me at first it really does make sense. While reminders on a smartphone or smart watch are great if you remember to act on them, they disappear immediately! So if you struggle to retain information it can seem like the reminder never happened in the first place.

It occurred to me that what was needed as a solution that set persistent reminders that continued to remind you until you “ticked” the item off the list, then it would go quiet until it next needed to remind you. I’ve spent a lot of time looking for this “app” and I don’t think it exists – there are hundreds of calendar, to-do and reminder apps. But they all seem to operate on the assumption that the reminder goes off, the person sees the reminder and then does the thing. Which is simply a flawed assumption for anyone who struggles to retain information.

Watch Me!

Many participants I’ve met use a smart watch and reminders pop up on this with both sound and vibration alerts. The main issues with this, however, is that if they don’t see and act on the reminder i

There are a number of possible solutions which can potentially be created by linking existing apps (reminder apps, Routines, Calendar apps, phone based alarms etc) with Smart devices (eg Google/Alexa/Siri Home Hub, smartphone, smartwatch, switches etc) to create an environment where reminders are more “persistent”.

These include:

1. Routines

Smart Home Routines function allows users to change the status of a smart home connected device in response to a command or at a given time. An example could be at 7am every morning a light comes on at a pre-set brightness and Google/Alexa/Siri says” Good Morning Sue it’s [DAY], [DATE]” and then starts paying a predetermined music playlist.

This could also help in the management of mealtimes – setting a routines (for example) that triggers at noon every day to say “Hi Jim, it’s 12 o’clock time to have lunch”.

The possible issue with using routines in this way is there no way they can be “snoozed” to run again 15 minutes.

2. Alarms to trigger routines

The native Android watch app includes functionality that allows the user to set an alarm which triggers a routine. One thing many participants mention is that it would be helpful for them to know in advance that they were about to be reminded of something so they could focus on the reminder and give it her full attention.

A solution like this could help with this issue as follows:

1. Alarm is set for noon, with a routine attached.

2. Alarm goes off on phone and smart watch at noon.

3. When the alarm is switched off a routine will run (alarm can also be snoozed, but the routine won’t run until it is finally switched off)

4. Routine turns on all lighting in kitchen to full brightness and Google says “Good afternoon Jill – it’s time for lunch”.

3. Smart switches to monitor physical objects

There are a number of companies that produce smart switches. These were originally designed to control lighting, but there is now lots more that we can do with these.

For example, we could enable the shower door with a switch which would monitor if it had been opened and closed (ie that someone had used the shower). We would then set a reminder to have a shower every half hour until the shower had been opened and closed - at which point the reminder could be switched off until the next day.

Obviously, there are complexities with this concept. For example, if Geoff and Alice live in the same home, we’d need to know who showers first each day, and the switch would need to recognise Open/Close, Open/Close (Geoff) then Open/Close (Alice).

Hydration Station

As the weather heats up, making sure you stay hydrated is crucial to physical health. And this is an area of concern for many participants. Often there are a number of care givers who come and go in shifts throughout the day, and often they assume that the previous shift may have reminded the participant to drink water. Without a means of tracking this, the simple, but critically important activity can fall through the cracks.

Perhaps the simplest means of monitoring water intake is with a smart water bottle.

Smart water bottles use sensors to detect and report now much water is in the bottle at any given time. This means that at any time the participant and her care-givers can check an app to see how much water has been consumed and when. Many smart water bottles also include visual prompts when it is time to drink more – these are often visual (lights blink or the bottle glows).

Thanks for listening!


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