6 IN TEN PATIENTS WITH ALZHEIMER'S WILL WANDER.
RESEARCH SHOWS THAT:
A person with Alzheimer's may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places. Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous, not to mention the constant weighing on their loved ones minds.
From the Alzheimers Association study done in 2015, 60% of these patient's caregivers have rated their emotional stress as high or very high and 40% of those have been clinically diagnosed with depression.
One solution to the problem is to allow caregivers some peace of mind and let early stage patients remain independent for as long as possible. This is done through the ability to monitor the where-abouts of their loved ones should they wander off.
Angel Guard is one such product that I was honored to help design and develop. Having run an assisted living facility, I know the gut wrenching fear and anguish that comes from having to wait with a family for news on their loved ones status after wandering off. It is something that no family member should have to go through, so with this application you are able to see a complete history of their path.
During the user research portion of the design process, I spoke with over twenty families and five direct front line caregivers about what they most wanted and what was most needed in an application like this.
The top requirements that were heard over and over again were
- ease of use
- unobtrusive device that would not cause their loved one discomfort or irritation.
- long term battery
- medium range tracking.
The team was trying to differentiate this product from the others by hiding it , and in doing that we were able to keep in mind a patients rights of privacy and dignity. There are some on the market but they are big, bulky, attach at the ankle and mark the person in a negative connotation disregarding their rights as human beings and as written into law of privacy and dignity.
App Design Decisons
During my initial research into what type of tracking device should be implemented I had to weigh in the consumers wishes and the realities of these types of devices. After consulting with a few electrical engineers, we had three options to choose from:
- arduino spheres
- RFID tags
- Homing Beacon technology
The pros and cons of each were :
- Pros: small , relatively long lasting battery, low cost, able to be sewn into underwear casing.
- Cons: need the ability to be near a receiver , not reliable during our testing
- Pros: small, thin, very low cost, waterproof
- Cons: short range
- Pros: low cost, long lasting battery, water resistant,long range, no requirements of needing other devices for triangulation, able to be sewn into underwear casing.
- Cons: relatively new design, slightly higher per unit pricetag
User Interaction Design
Using what we had learned about wants and needs, the immediate theme was clear: minimalism. Minimalism and a non existing on boarding time for the family member , caregiver or search team. The design also needed to have a streamlined process with no hoops to jump through. Below find the lo fi mockups done for the flow and usability testing.
Keeping in mind the seriousness of this product, the color scheme was kept muted with just little pops of color for important alerts or things of importance. Below find the six screens that make up the entire user interface. From our testing this final version was found to be easily used and nothing distracting from its intended purpose.
To see the working prototype that I developed using AngularJS for the front and Meteor for the back please follow the link below:
FINAL SCREEN DESIGNS
The health and well being of those least able to fend for themselves is one of the driving forces behind what I do. I'm truly thrilled to have been part of something so amazingly good . There was so much to learn during this process. I definitely was not aware of how tracking devices worked and before I went about researching the exact capabilities , I had to scrap my entire initial design framework because in my ignorance I had failed to realize that it wasn't as easy as just plunking down some HTML5 geolocation code, and had to have a crash course in electrical engineering. Many thanks to everyone at Noisebridge in San Francisco for taking the time on Monday nights teaching me how to solder and learn about circuitry.