A system for supporting communication between dementia patients and caregivers using simple stickers, an Apple Watch, and a mobile app.
According to the U.S. Alzheimer's Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease in 2021.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a group of irreversible, progressive conditions characterized by memory loss, spatial confusion, and impaired judgement. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia.
As the condition progresses and cognitive ability declines, patients can forget how to appropriately interact with the environment around them.
Thus, frequent and attentive care is necessary to protect and enrich their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing within the home.
We interviewed 8 caregivers (relatives of dementia patients) and 2 experts on Alzheimer's / dementia (a clinical manager and a UWADRC science writer). They provided us with these insights into the daily experiences of these stakeholders:
Don't trust those outside of family; prefer familiar caregivers.
Ask repeated questions; predictable conversation topics.
Sometimes forget how to keep themselves safe.
Have difficulties balancing work and taking care of loved ones.
Tend to restrict independent travel due to safety concerns.
Want to feel appreciated, understood, and supported.
“Household objects can be dangerous to patients due to cognitive decline; one time, a patient mistook Windex for water because it is a blue liquid.”
“Caregivers sometimes focus on providing such great care for their loved one that they forget to care for themselves, and some even die before the patient does.”
How might we...
build a system to support communication between people living with dementia and their caregivers to improve the quality of their daily life?
Able to cater to the entire progression of the disease and inform how caregiving changes over time.
Able to react to a wide range of communication concerns between patient-caregiver.
Peace of Mind
Helps patients to stay safe and reduces stress for both parties.
BETHANY / Patient / Age 70 (65 at diagnosis)
Early-Mid Stage Alzheimer’s
a modern dance instructor for 35 years
trouble with short-term memories
once energetic and outgoing, outdoorsy
now quiet, withdrawn and distrustful, volatile
often has moments of lucidity throughout the day
KAT / Caregiver & Daughter / Age 38
works full-time as an office manager
has a close relationship with her mom
worried about her mom’s safety
generally in good health
in a stable relationship
lives with Bethany in 2-bedroom apartment
A system for engaging patient’s loved ones to take turns caring for patient
To relieve caretaker stress and reduce load for busy caretakers
Schedules activities and visits with people close to patient
Identifies and matches caretakers and family who are free to visit & do activities w/ patient
Shares information gathered by home IoT to people close to patient (e.g. health updates, patient interests)
A VUI bracelet that connects with a greater notification system
To improve patient interactions with outside environments
Allows caretakers to record informative messages for the patient; messages will play when they reach a certain location / "landmark" (e.g. library, grocery store)
Bracelet sends notification to staff at landmark upon entry, alerting them that this individual has Alzheimer's and might need assistance
A weekly physical care package based on daily behavior tracking / data collection
To encourage meaningful interactions and stimulation
Behavior tracking and prediction through ubiquitous computing or by caretakers’ accounts
Contains various activities to suit the patient’s physical and emotional state
For example, if the data collection predicted high energy, then the care package would include a more hands-on activity like a small gardening kit
A portrait synthesis technology video message from patients to caretakers
To show caretaker appreciation
Ubiquitous computing can collect patient data to reasonably express what the patient would want to say to their children or caregiver.
At the end of life, a sincere speech / video will be generated through portrait synthesis technology in order to express gratitude, state cherished memories, and leave last words to their loved ones.
We decided to continue investigating concept two because:
our research indicates that VUI is an effective method of interaction with patients
it can easily apply to a larger IoT system
its practical applications can be more easily assessed than concepts with a more emotional / sentimental goal
Thus, we redefined the concept goal within the context of our interview insights, specifically focusing on keeping patients safe within the home and helping to ensure caregivers' peace of mind when they are not able to be physically by their side.
All of this research and development eventually culminated in MEMO.
What is Memo?
WHAT IS MEMO?
MEMO is a system of attaching voice messages to specific physical artifacts within the home by using simple stickers, an Apple Watch, and a mobile app.
This improves communication between dementia patients and their caregivers to preserve both parties’ peace of mind, even when caregivers cannot be physically present.
hard plastic cover
passive RFID tag
silicone grip ring
hard plastic back
THE STICKERS work as physical trackers and visual reminders for MEMO.
Their use of simple passive RFID tags allows for precise location tracking within the home. When nearby, they ping the Apple Watch, which connects to the app database and triggers message playback.
* 3” diameter x 0.375” thickness
3M sticker back
THE APPLE WATCH tracks the patient’s location and activities and communicates with the MEMO stickers and app to determine which messages should be played back and when.
When the watch detects a sticker, it vibrates and displays the message icon for two seconds, and then shows an image of the caregiver’s face.
THE MOBILE APP has three main functions: the sticker log, the question log, and the memory log.
Sticker Log | record messages + manage stickers
Caregivers can record messages for their patients and sync them to specific stickers in the sticker log. These messages can be anything from a task reminder to a hazard warning to simple words of comfort.
Question Log | track patient questions
Short-term memory loss can cause patients significant stress, especially if caretakers are not present to supplement their memory by answering their questions.
Thus, the Apple watch recognizes any questions asked aloud and documents them in the app’s question log. Caregivers can then record answers to be played back if the question is asked again.
Memory Log | provide caregiving support
By analyzing the content of the question log, MEMO provides a monthly summary, or “memory log”, on what the patient was most concerned or curious about. MEMO then gives suggestions for future caregiving practices.
A system that gets smarter.
By analyzing the content of the question and memory logs, MEMO can also recommend places to add MEMO stickers in the future.