Research Projects

Using technology to help people living with dementia to carry out activities at home

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Older gentleman using an app on a tablet computer

A three-year project funded by a research grant from the Dunhill Medical Trust, in partnership with the Research Institute for the Care of Older People and University of the West of England.

What is needed

People living with dementia often find tasks with multiple steps difficult to complete because of their condition.

We want to explore ways to enable people with dementia to carry out tasks or activities at home with the use of technology-based prompts.

The current project aims to look at how best to support a carer to identify and break down meaningful tasks, and load this personalised information into a prompting device for a person with dementia to use.

The information to support the carer, and the design of the prompting device, will be developed during this project.

Who will benefit

It is hoped that this technology solution will help people living with dementia to carry out everyday tasks which will, in turn, give them greater independence, a sense of achievement and confidence.

Additionally, carers can potentially benefit from reduced dependency as well as seeing their loved ones’ confidence increase.

By the end of this project, we expect to have a prompting ‘product’, complete with supporting training material for carers, which has been specifically designed for the end users.

Design and development

We have been engaging with people with dementia and carers at different points throughout the work to refine the details of the design.

We plan to:

  • Conduct workshops with carers to understand the challenges of teaching them to identify and break down meaningful tasks.
  • Carry out an extensive search of existing research in the areas of sequencing and task prompting to draw on learnings, as well as related products (both hardware and software).
  • Collaborate with the RICE to gain support in designing and recruiting for different stages of this research.
  • Build and develop training materials and a practical prompting system (in the form of a simple tablet display) to support people living with dementia to carry out multi-step tasks.
  • Design and develop an effective user interface for the prompting device, suitable for users living with dementia.
  • Engage with people living with dementia, and those caring for people with dementia, throughout the development process to ensure we consistently meet the users’ needs.
  • Disseminate findings; share knowledge through publications, promotion and talks.

Home Trials

We recently conducted 12 home trials in conjunction with the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) which has allowed us to see for the first time how the prompting and the instructions work when people use it together in their own homes.

The results are helping us to refine the design so that the final trials, which enable participants to try the prompting as if they had simply bought the ‘product’ and its instructions, will be as successful as possible.

What we know so far

Our earlier research found that combining text and recorded voice prompts could really help a person with memory problems to complete a task.