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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

New app helps family caregivers manage dementia-related behaviours in the moment

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February 11, 2019, by Paul Cavanagh, caregiverexchange.ca

Family caregivers of people with dementia often struggle to deal with the behavioural and psychological symptoms of the disease. Even those caregivers who receive special training on how to manage dementia-related behaviours may have difficulty applying the techniques that they’ve learned.

“You tend to get emotionally caught up in the moment,” says Karim Munjee, a Toronto-based working professional who’s a father of two young children and the primary caregiver for his 74-year-old mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago. “You might not stop to consider what’s triggering the behaviour.”
 
Karim was part of a group that helped beta-test a new app for family caregivers called Dementia Talk, developed at Sinai Health System’s Cyril & Dorothy, Joel & Jill Reitman Centre for Alzheimer’s Support and Training. The app has six features: a behaviour tracker, behaviour care plan, “my team” sharing feature, medication list, scheduler, and “caregiver corner.”
 
With the app, Karim says that many caregiving duties are simplified, organized, and digitized. For instance, if his mother is agitated, he can quickly pull out his phone, and the behaviour care plan feature of Dementia Talk will remind him what might be triggering her agitation. It also suggests clinically-proven strategies. This helps him deal with the situation more effectively.
 
“To me, the beauty of the app is that it brings common caregiver needs together in one accessible space,” says Karim.
 
In addition to helping him better understand and anticipate triggers to his mom’s behaviours, the app allows him to accurately answer medical specialists’ questions about behaviour patterns without relying on paper records or his own memory. It can also be used to chart her behaviours against recent changes in medications to see whether there’s a relationship.
 
The “my team” feature makes it easy for him to share information with family members or health professionals involved in his mother’s care.  
 
“Having this app gives me somewhere to go for help in a timely way,” Karim says. “And it helps me spend more time looking after my mother rather than chasing down information.” 

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