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Using the past to remember the present

July 5th, 2022 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Amy Boyden and Niamh Murray created the app to offer practical help for those with dementia and alzheimer’s, but they also want to create more awareness around the conditions.

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A clever new app has been launched by two friends to help those with dementia to use moments from the past to help stimulate mental activity in the present

A YOUNG entrepreneur from Bantry was inspired by her own personal experience to develop an app to help people with dementia.

Amy Boyden (25), along with her pal Niamh Murray (22) from Offaly, have just launched ForgetMeNot.

It aims to aid communication between loved ones and carers of those who are living with dementia through the use of reminiscence therapy.

Reminiscence therapy, Amy explains, is a breakthrough body of research in the dementia care field which aims to evoke memories and stimulate mental activity. It is often assisted by props such as videos, pictures and objects.

The girls met while studying in UCC, and they started to brainstorm ideas for a business.

‘We decided on creating this app because it is personal for both of us.

‘My stepmother lived with alzheimer’s and one of Niamh’s grandmothers also lived with dementia.

‘Niamh’s other grandmother is currently living with dementia. We have both seen first hand that it can be difficult to communicate with those living with the illness and vice versa. We recognised this gap and wanted to create a bridge,’ said Amy.

They have both used reminiscence therapy practices to communicate with their loved ones. Amy and her siblings would read books with their stepmother and sing songs, while Niamh used photo albums to reminisce on the past. She would also sing her grandmother’s favourite songs from childhood to her.

As well as creating something practical – the app can be used by carers, people living with the illness, and loved ones – they also want to create awareness about the illness.

In 2018, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland said that an estimate of 55,000 people in Ireland live with a form of dementia and that it will more than double by 2050, with an expected figure of 141,200 people. Worldwide there is an estimate of 55m people currently living with dementia.

‘Dementia is a broad term that is used to describe the loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities that influence daily life. There are 400 different types of dementia and alzheimer’s is the most common form. Other forms of dementia are frontotemporal dementia, lewy body dementia and vascular dementia,’ said Amy.

They chose the name ForgetMeNot because ‘like the Forget-Me-Not flower, people living with dementia may be delicate, but with the help of others, they can also prosper and grow.’

The app will work like any other.

‘You go to the app store and you will be able to download it, create an account for yourself and then for the person you will be using it for – your loved one, yourself or your patient.

‘When you create an account you will be sent a family code via email. You can share this with others who also want to join the same family account.

‘This way everything is in the one place and you can collaborate,’ explains Amy.

The app has three main features: photos, music and voice recordings.

‘For photos you are able to upload photos from your phone and create albums for example, “John & Mary’s Wedding Anniversary” or “Chloe’s Christening”. With music you will be linked to Spotify and you will be able to search all of your loved one’s favourite songs from the past.

‘For voice recordings you are able to record your own voice, you could read over their most loved poem or simply leave a short recording “Mum, I’m off to the shop and I will be back later”.’

Essentially the three features allow families and carers to use moments of the past to hopefully activate memories in the present.

‘Communication is such an important thing for someone with dementia to feel a sense of self, boost mood and slow down cognitive decline,’ said Niamh.

The girls come from different academic backgrounds but are united in their drive to help others.

‘In 2020, I completed my bachelor of law from UCC, I then was a humanitarian aid worker in a refugee camp in Greece which led me to the masters I am currently doing in public international law (specialising in conflict andsecurity) in the Netherlands,’ says Amy.

In 2021, Niamh graduated from UCC with a bachelor in law and business.

‘This year I completed my FE1 law examinations alongside this venture. I have had a keen interest in entrepreneurship since I was young, so starting a business was not a surprise,’ she said.

The venture has received investment from family and friends to get off the ground, and in 2021, they also received a feasibility study grant from LEO Cork City.

‘Over the years we have also been networking with different nursing homes and relevant alzheimer’s and dementia organisations.

‘We look forward to continuing to foster our collaborations as our business grows,’ said Niamh.

• The app will shortly be available on the Google Play store for Android and in the coming months it will also be available for downloads on IOS. See www.forgetmenotapp.ie

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