Cognitive support technologies for people with TBI: current usage and challenges experienced

Yi Chu, Pat Brown, Mark Harniss, Henry Kautz, Kurt Johnson
Disability and Rehabilitation. Assistive Technology 2014, 9 (4): 279-85

PURPOSE: We investigated the current use of off-the-shelf cognitive support technologies (CSTs) by individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI), the challenges they and their caregivers face when using these technologies, the functional areas where support is needed, and their current experience in learning new technologies.

METHOD: We conducted two focus groups with participants with TBI and their caregivers. Focus group interactions were captured using recordings and a court reporter. Transcripts were analyzed qualitatively.

RESULTS: We identified three core themes - consumer and caregiver self-reported needs for support, how support is used on a daily basis and consumer and caregiver attitudes towards the use of support by types of support. We also inferred implications for design of CSTs.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with TBI use consumer available technologies to support cognition. The design of most of these devices is not targeted to meet the needs of people with TBI, and they can be challenging to use independently, but individuals and their caregivers still benefit from their use by embedding technology as one type of support within a broader support network that includes personal assistance.

IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION: People with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are attempting to use a wide range of consumer available technologies to support cognition, although not always successfully. One important role for rehabilitation providers could be helping people with TBI use these technologies with more accuracy and success. People with TBI note that an important element in adopting new technology is good training in its use. Cognitive support technologies (CSTs) are one part of broader network of supports. People with TBI and their caregivers desire independence but do not want to lose the human element that can be provided by a caregiver. New technologies should be implemented with an understanding of an individual's broader support network. Psychosocial aspects of TBI need to be considered when designing and implementing CSTs. In particular, rehabilitation providers need to address the anxiety that many people with TBI experience, including fear about forgetting and their need for early, repeated reminders so they can prepare for upcoming events.

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