Helping hands for dementia caregivers
Our team was interested in working on a technology-based project for social good and thought that the problem of the elderly wandering and losing their way was a pertinent one. This perception was largely shaped by videos and campaigns about dementia in Singapore. We chose to work with the Alzheimer’s Disease Association brand.
Our initial research was surprising. We visited Yong-En Care Centre and saw that dementia is best treated with professional knowledge to maintain the cognitive levels of the patients. These were our findings:
- Patients in the Dementia Day Care Centre had to be medically diagnosed before they were admitted to the care centre.
- Dementia patients were generally recipients of care and unable to interact with technology well.
- A structured therapy and routine through planned and repeated activities revolving around physical games and activities.
- Patients were kept safe within the compounds and the gates were tall and locked to prevent anyone from exiting without permission.
- Patients presented problems at home but could interact positively in the day care centre.
We now had a problem. The dementia patients did not have a problem of wandering!
Our team then decided to refocus efforts into discovering where we could target our efforts in this project on dementia. We interviewed 3 caregivers to dementia patients and 3 service professionals.
All the caregivers did not get a medical diagnosis for their seniors with dementia and thus did not have professional help for dementia. They came up with their homemade solutions. The Service Professionals usually came across seniors in the later stages of dementia had shared that routine and structure was very important in treated dementia.
Their findings were put into post-its and an affinity map was created to see their commonalities. We concluded that the caregivers had to cope with the dementia patients’ behaviours and this presented much challenges for them. Later on, we would continue to fall back on our findings through the affinity map for our design decisions.
We were also able to derive our persona, the caregiver, through the interviews and affinity map.
User stories and a user journey map were created based on the interview findings. They were divided into 2 main stages of dementia for pre-diagnosis dementia patients.
Thereafter, we derived ideas for features to be included in our app. We recognised that the patients and our persona had a strong preference for physical tools so our solution was a Caremate kit with both a mobile app and a physical dementia kit. There were many ideas so we ranked them by importance and level of effort (implementation) on an X-Y axis. The feature prioritised was the provision of information / tips to caregivers.
Mindmate is a UK based app for dementia patients. It provides mental stimulation and has large buttons that make it easy to click. There are many games, recall tools and organisation tools for dementia patients. Its most obvious involvement of caregivers is in allowing the patients to video call their family members through the app.
TalkingPoint allows for a community forum app platform for caregivers to interact on while CareZone is an app primarily for information for caregivers.
Much of our design inspiration was obtained from CareZone.
In this project, we were careful to conduct user testing at every stage of our prototypes as our persona is not very technologically-savvy and primarily does physical rather than digital tasks daily.
Our first digital prototype had its buttons in the same greenish-blue colour. However, all our test participants informed us that the interface was all the same and one said it would “take time to digest all the information”.
It was then that we recalled our observations at Yishun Polyclinic where the caregivers and the elderly often visited. The place was colour-coded to enable wayfinding.
We revamped the colour scheme of the app and the final prototype was ready! Each section was colour-coded to its relevant representative button on the home-page. The primary goal of the app was to provide information and through our tests, the most effective way the information was presented to our persona, was through colours.
The app was presented together with a physical Caremate kit that contained games and activity Tip cards for the caregiver to interact with the patient. There were some problems during the usability tests where users did not order the physical kit as the button was initially too small and some thought they would have to pay for it so we made the button larger and added the word “Free” in the homecare kit section.
Technical Background Research
We consulted 3 developers on the feasibility of our design and they informed that since the app was more information-based, it is not too complex. Since videos can be played, they suggested simply embedding the video to save time and costs. If we wanted to create games on this app, it would be simple, taking about a week.
Given more time, our team would like to test the kit on caregivers in the home context, add additional language options besides English and to work with more associations dealing with dementia.
Through this project, we have interviewed and seen so many family members being affected by dementia in the family. It is our keen hope that they will be able to ensure the disease is managed well and that they will have happy memories of there senior in his/her later years.
I’m really glad to have the likeminded JT Studioz and Siân Ng on this team. It’ll be really great if Caremate can be developed and benefit caregivers! Feel free to try the prototype here: https://invis.io/DU6UY9N5A.