Product Design Case Study
A smart-home technology solution to support care partners and their care recipients having early stage Alzheimer's Disease & Related Dementia
For the capstone project, we collaborated with IQ Solutions to understand aging in place for individuals having early-stage Alzheimer's Disease & Related Dementia, and their care partners.
Client: IQ Solutions
Role: Lead Researcher
Team: Dawson Hoppes, Dhruvi Patel, Mishi Soni, Naishi Jain, Sravya Amancherla, Zora Moore
Methods & Tools: Contextual Design, Sketch
Duration: 8 Months (On-going)
Currently, it is estimated that over 5 million people in the U.S. are afflicted with Alzheimer's disease & (or) related dementias (AD/ADRD), and this number is increasing. The extensive care needs of persons with AD/ADRD are variable, and care involves great demands on care partners. Family care partners may experience both adverse health consequences and economic hardship because of lost work and care expenditures.
Development of effective, technology-based interventions is needed to reduce the burden of caregiving and delay nursing home placement for persons with AD/ADRD. A broad range of assistive technologies could help improve the lives of persons with AD/ADRD and their care partners.
Support in aging in place for individuals with early-stage ADRD and their care partners.
We surveyed 71 research papers and articles and identified key 6 themes to consider when designing technology solutions for individuals with ADRD & their care partners.
The two populations involved have clashing priorities. Caregiving is more challenging, when monitoring remotely. And activities that support independent living are linked to improved quality of life and empowerment. Hence, a right balance needs to be maintained between autonomy and safety.
Lack of holistic support can lead to loneliness and boredom. Systems should focus on catering to the medical and social needs of the care recipient and care partner through social participation, and leisure. They should educate carepartners on how to provide care while looking out for their own well being.
Conditions, homes, and needs of people with ADRD are very specific. The needs and abilities of the care partners can also vary dramatically. Therefore systems should be flexible and should have the ability to be personalized, changed, and adapted over time as the condition grows.
Personizable systems put additional responsibility on the care partners as they now have to take extra time to set up the system as per their needs. Systems should be easily learnbale, and user friendly. Clinicians can be looped in, to the set up the system as per the individual's needs and abilities.
Putting unfamiliar devices into a person’s living environment can cause them anxiety, and make them more aware that they are being monitored. Systems should be well integrated into the individual’s environment instead of being in focus.
While we should acknowledge an individual's capabilities and limitations, we shouldn’t “dumb” down the system because of their limitations. Systems should move away from the illness narrative and should leverage their proficiencies, preferences, and passions.
We identified off-the-shelf smart technology devices that can be leveraged in our solution.
Smart Home Systems
We conducted a competitor analysis and identified 3 products that are targeting similar populations as IQS.
Presence Family Care Pack
It supports specific behaviors of people with ADRD such as falls and wandering through their system of sensors.
It promotes virtual companionship between a remote caregiver and recipient by enabling proactive-voice check-ins.
HandsFree Health's WellBe
It provides a rich database of health-related information on its consumer health platform.
Doctors, Clinicians, Healthcare Workers, Support Groups To plan ahead to support the progression of the condition.
Family & Friends To make conversation and provide quick assistance when they are in contact with the CR.
"I don’t want caregiving to be the main focus of our relationship"
To keep things as they were before, they try to do fun activities with their CR, communicate like they used to before, and keep them distracted by not reminding them of their condition. They also try to keep the CR's mind active.
"I like writing things down as my CR remembers better this way"
They are wary of using it as they suspect their devices being hacked. Considering the age bracket of the care recipients, care partners are not confident about adoption of technology by the CR. Some CPs think that technology makes people lazy.
We analysed the interviews to create an affinity diagram revealing the key themes and pattern in the data.
In order to better design for our target audience, we identified 9 identity elements of the care partners. The elements can be categorized into 3 groups - 'I Am', 'I Want', 'I Do'. These groups help us understand different aspects of a care partner.
The day of a carepartner is one that weaves between completing their daily tasks while monitoring and supporting their recipient.
Using our research insights, we built a model that shows the day in the life of a carepartner. The top of the model lays out the daily routine of a carepartner, and shows the personal responsibilities they have to manage. (I.e. work, shopping, social life, etc.) The bottom half of the models shows their caregiving responsibilities.
Checking - In
“My care recipient manages their own medication, but I like to check to pill box later in the day to see if they took their meds.”
Caregiving is Part of My Life
“I manage my time and make sure my caregiving breaks don’t affect my workflow.”
Tech is Part of My Routine
"I use tech in my routine for checking-in, monitoring, planning, controlling house etc."
Tech Keeps Me in the Loop
“If my care recipient didn’t have Alzheimer's I wouldn’t be as connected to technology.”
Tech Makes Caregiving Easier
" I use technology for electronic Calendars, scheduling appointments, reminders etc."
Based on the insights gathered through research, we ideated two product concepts.
A mobile application that leverages smart speakers to provide assistance with various caregiving activities and regular subtle check-ins. It can be integrated with any smart speaker device such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.
A smart ring which can be integrated with any smart-home device
Team from University of Maryland with the IQS Team