Hamilton siblings are getting national attention for creating an iPad app called Promenade that helps patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia to communicate.
Chris Benoit and Alexis Liddell spent 10 frustrating years trying to have meaningful conversations with their grandmother, who suffered memory loss after a stroke.
“We struggled,” said Liddell. “Communication was the toughest. We’d leave the visits with her feeling exhausted, frustrated, mad and sad. We figured we’re not the only ones having trouble with this.”
Liddell, 29, works in therapeutic recreation at Macassa Lodge. Her 32-year-old brother is a software engineer for Autodesk in Toronto and lives in Burlington. Through chatting to each other about their jobs, they discovered they could create an app that would help patients like their grandmother communicate.
“We got talking and put our heads together and realized we had something cool,” said Liddell.
The app Promenade allows patients, families and/or health-care providers to choose a subject such as gardening, sports or cooking. It brings up a series of related photos for the patient to look at, as well as questions designed to jog the patient’s long-term memory and get them talking.
We’d leave the visits with her feeling exhausted, frustrated, mad and sad.
“We know with dementia the short-term memories are the first to go but the long-term memories usually remain intact for a significantly longer portion of time,” said Liddell. “So a lot of folks suffering from the disease can’t remember what they had for lunch but they can remember specific details about high school or working on the farm when they were nine years old.
“These are the kind of memories we want to tap into … In a state of mind when so much is unknown, confusing and frustrating, it’s nice to have something you can talk about because you have access to those memories.”
Promenade, which started selling for $4.99 at the App Store in February, has caught the attention of therapists from across Canada working in the field.
The two McMaster University grads (Liddell also graduated from Mohawk College), have so many requests to speak at conferences, they’ve had to turn most of them down. They did speak at two: in British Columbia for the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association, and in Collingwood for Therapeutic Recreation Ontario. They’ve taken suggestions from both events to refine the app.
“I spend a lot of time using it with my own grandmother,” said Liddell. “I find it’s the best and most effective way I can communicate with her. But we have a variety of homes all over Canada actually using it and the feedback has been amazing.”
For more information, go to www.promenadeapp.com.