Nov 29, 2011

Designers to Develop Innovative New Concepts to Improve Lives of Those Living with Dementia

The Design Council is running a competition to rethink life with dementia. The challenge is to help people with dementia and their carers live easier, better planned and more enjoyable lives.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

The project, Design Council's Challenges (Living well with dementia design challenge), aims to develop the next generation of products and services, drive innovation and stimulate the market, in a bid to improve the quality of life for those living with dementia, their families and carers.

Below you will read about the final five ideas and products that have been selected. I reordered them and added my own comments.

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IDEA: A web and mobile-based service for carers of people with dementia to help them find work that can be delivered on a time and location flexible basis. This will enable carers to supplement their income and protect their savings whilst also enabling them to stay within the world of work.
TEAM: CREO Strategic Solutions, A+B Studio, FLY Design, FeedHenry

Bob's view: This is clearly my favorite and it is needed and wanted. Oddly, just a week ago I mentioned to Carole Larkin that looking back I should have gotten Dotty a part time job. I can just hear many of you snickering. Well here is the deal. Dotty worked until she was 79. Dotty likes to work and she liked to be around people. In her case, she was around younger people and this is what she enjoyed most.

There are already existing full and part time jobs for people who have handicaps. There is a pretty big initiative nearby in Lake Worth, FL.

Why would I want Dotty to work? First and foremost, it would have been good for her self concept. Second, it would have kept her mind working. I want you to understand, if I had decided to try this approach I would not have forced Dotty to do anything. However, bright light, socialization, and being around people could very well benefit a person living with Alzheimer's.

If a person can go to adult day care, they might be able to work. I would be happy to write more about this idea later. I was envisioning Dotty working 4 hours a day, four or five days a week.

The idea being promoted above is for caregivers. Flexible at home jobs for caregivers would be a winner. I know it is doable because I have spent more than five hours a day, seven days a week, on this blog for three years. If I had been paid $10 an hour that is a lot of money. $200 a week if I only worked 20 hours. I didn't make that on this blog, but I figure I got paid a lot more in support and self concept benefits.

IDEA: The Scent Clock’ – a home scent-device to stimulate appetite and enhance nutritional status in dementia. The device will look to increase the likelihood of eating, reducing the issues of weight loss, dehydration, fatigue and malnutrition that people with dementia experience.
TEAM: Rodd Design, The Olfactory Experience, Gwen Coleman + Crossmodal Research Lab, University of Oxford

Bob's view: Three words, I love it. This is a wonderful idea and it is needed. Didn't I just write about eating again today? You really have to understand dementia and the problems that come with dementia to come up with an idea like this one. This idea will fly in the Alzheimer's community if the scent clock can be made and sold at reasonable price. Note to Rodd design, at $300 I don't think it will fly.

IDEA: ‘Grouple’ – a collaborative caring and sharing tool which enable the family to support their relative through easier, accessible communication. Applicable from the point of diagnosis, Grouple will provide online and physical tools to facilitate co-ordinated support.
TEAM: Studiohead, BT Innovate & Design, Louise Wilson, Ifung Lu, Meike Walcha + Jewish Care

Bob's view: Not so sure about what is being envisioned here. However, anything that would support better communication is on my list. I would need to learn more to give an opinion on this one.

IDEA: A permanently worn discreet wristband to aid dementia sufferers. The product will provide user identification, personal monitoring and emergency alert functionalities via 3D accelerometers and RFID, and will enhance the current buddi telecare system.
TEAM: Buddi + Sebastian Conran associates

Bob's view: I am lukewarm on this one. I do think it is a great idea and it is needed. It sounds like cost will really be an issue here. As a result, it would only be used by people that could afford it. This means it would be in reach of only a fraction of Alzheimer's caregivers and their families.

Quite frankly, what I think is needed, and what I believe will work best is a simple, cheap ID bracelet. I don't why people would pay 50 dollars for a bracelet, and then $30 a month so that once the person is located an 800 number can be called. The police and emergency people are well trained and smart. If the ID bracelet has a valid and current phone number this would be adequate. The emergency personnel know what to do until you get there.

IDEA: Dogs for people with early stage dementia- developing a service that explores the potential of trained dogs in a dementia situation to help maintain independence, dignity, companionship and joy.
TEAM: Alzheimer Scotland, Glasgow School of Art (product design) + Dogs for the Disabled

Bob's view: This is another idea I really like, and I have thought about it previously. This would be ideal for dementia patients that like to walk and are allowed to walk alone. If the dog were trained to lead them back home, once list, this would be a wonderful idea. I ranked this low because of cost. How expensive would it be to acquire a trained dog? I searched guide dogs for the blind and saw one service that charges $42,000 for a trained dog. Since healthcare is not likely to pay this cost, a trained dementia dog would be too expensive for most.

Have a good idea for a new product that would benefit the Alzheimer's community? Let us know.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room