Helping Home is a feature within smart home systems for caregivers and people with short-term memory loss to provide a non-intrusive way to monitor the patient, improve their notion of independence and provide a cost effective way to take care of someone.

Context

During my week at Teach Access Study Away Silicon Valley program, I had the opportunity to visit many technology companies that advocate for accessibility in their products. Throughout the week, all students were put in small cross-institutional teams to solve an accessibility challenge whilst gaining an understanding of how to implement a product to help improve the lives of the accessibility community. My team came up with the idea of a non-intrusive smart-home system designed to help those with memory impairments maintain their independence as well as have an easier system in place for caregivers to be able to easily care for their loved ones. 

Role

Product Designer

Timeline

1 week (Been updated since)

Tools

Adobe XD, Figma

The Team

Beginning Stages

Research

Causes of Memory Loss

Alzheimer’s Disease
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Dementia
Transient Global Amnesia
Stroke
Depression and Stress
Forgetting

5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050 this number will rise to 14 million.

1 in 8 adults suffer from some form of memory loss. 

The strain of being a caregiver increases the risk of illness and even death.

How to help:

Develop routines and schedules.
Have important information
somewhere accessible.
Break down new activities into small steps.
Keep medications current.
Give them independence.

Questions We Considered:

-How to remind to use medication?
-Have users ever used a phone before?
-What if the user never leaves their bed?
-What happens when they leave their house?
-Can the technology talk to you?
-Technology could give the person a phone call?
-What is our memory window?
-What is our target audience’s average available memory time?
-How does memory loss affect a person’s well-being?
-What tone/language should be used by the application?
-Will the product provide vocal instruction, visual instruction?
-Would lights help?
-What is the possible learning curve of these products?

Personas
Marge, 51

"It’s hard for me to look at my own needs as separate from my wife’s needs.” 

Marge is the daughter of Albert and Nola. She has a full time job and three kids. She has so many responsibilities so it is hard for her to constantly be worried about her parents. 

Pain Points: 

The daughter is constantly putting notes on areas in the home. 

Goals:

For her father to feel less worried and take care of himself.

Nola, 76

"I don’t want to feel as though I am a burden on my family. I like being responsible for myself.” 

Nola currently suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. She has confusion with time and place. She continues to misplace items and doesn’t have the ability to retrace her steps.

Pain Points: 

Difficulties completing tasks and relies on family and loved ones for care.

Goals:

To get through the day and complete all the tasks that she needs to complete.

Albert, 74

"It’s hard for me to look at my own needs as separate from my wife’s needs.” 

Albert is Nola’s husband and caregiver. Caring for his wife has put his own health at risk. He drops his own needs in order for his wife to have his full attention. 

Pain Points: 

Constantly watching over his wife. 

Goals:

Remind his wife of daily activities and to find enough time for himself. 

Problem

People with short-term memory issues need a way to be effectively looked after because it is crucial to their health and well-being.

Caregivers need a way to keep track of the daily activities of people with short term memory loss because it is crucial to both the caregiver and patients health and well-being.
 

Solution

We believe that by building a feature within smart home systems for caregivers and people with short-term memory loss, we will:

 

  • Provide a non-intrusive easy way to monitor the patient.

  • Improve the patient’s notion of independence and self-dignity. 

  • Provide a cost effective way to take care of someone.
     

Competitive Analysis
Features:
  • Users are happy about phone calls to loved ones but loved ones can’t talk all day.

  • Unsolved problem areas: preventing wandering, loneliness.

  • Tech exists for pre-recorded reminders (talking tiles), but more modern tech could be used to go beyond this.

  • Current tech in wandering/loneliness space assumes full-time caregiver or someone available 24/7.

  • Chatbot tech working in conjunction with technology.

  • When person is recognized as trying to leave, have “phone calls” where “loved one” is trying to get their attention.

  • Notify caregiver to call at earliest convenience.

  • Letting patients talk to chatbot w/ caregiver voice - reduce burden on caregiver, make them happy during the day, encourage patients to talk more (stimulates their brain).

  • Can embed reminders into this.

Sketches
First Iteration

Creating reminders was too complicated.
User research found the UX was confusing.
Setting a firm schedule removes the freedom and independence of the patient with AD.
Removing the caretaker would reduce valuable time socializing.

New Concept
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Sensors

Using machine learning, an Artificial Intelligence will learn the patient’s habits. Over time, it will be able to identify any unusual behavior to the caretaker. You can edit your current sensors to change the name of the alert, when to be alerted and what the alert sounds like. 

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Add Sensor

Add another sensor to your house when necessary, and personalize it by giving it a name so it is easily identifiable to the caregiver. 

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Medicine

The caregiver is able to track when the medicine box has been opened and inform the patient what medicine they need to take and when. 

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Takeaways
  • I was fortunate enough to be able to do this project with three other extremely talented students from different universities and a variety of expertise - Information Architecture, Software Engineering and Robotics. 

  • Worked with and learnt from industry professionals from companies such as Apple, Google, Verizon Media, Facebook, Intuit, Microsoft and LinkedIn. 

  • I now have a deep understanding of the fundamental concepts and skills to implement inclusive design and development of technology for people with diverse abilities, including people with disabilities. This includes understanding common types of disabilities & current demographics, societal context and historical perspective, User Interface facilitators & barriers, common assistive technologies (AT), best practices for product development and applied techniques. 

Learn more about Teach Access and my experience HERE

©  Brooke Hamilton 2021