Evaluation, Redesign and Implementation of a System to Support Early Dementia Contexts

Everywhere in the world, population ageing is perceived as a double-edged sword. While it does show an incredible perseverance of the human race and its ever-growing feats, it constitutes a problem when observed from the point of view of health care systems and governments. The current situation of a declining economy puts an even greater strain on the difficulties that nations need to overcome.

As people age, they experience changes related to perceptual, motor and cognitive systems. In these scenarios, chronic conditions are more likely to develop. Dementia is one such condition, notable for being very frequent and highly impacting to the lives of the elderly. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia and causes people to progressively lose their ability to live independently. Caregivers are thus essential to help them overcome a wide variety of obstacles, but in order to do that, they too struggle psychologically, socially and financially.

This work focuses on the design, evaluation and development of technology to aid in dementia contexts, namely to people with early-stage AD and their caregivers. It builds upon a previous project in which a system called mobileWAY was partially designed and tested and not at all implemented.

mobileWAY explores the concept of caregivers using a mobile application that can connect with the TV at the home of, and watched by the dementia-affected persons. The system enables caregivers to communicate information to the dementia-affected persons regarding who they are, their whereabouts and how long they will take until returning to the home of the dementia-affected person. In this dissertation, the initial version of mobileWAY is tested again, redesigned and improved, and a working prototype is developed and tested. This project encompasses the areas of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Software Engineering.

During the project’s development, a user-centred design (UCD) approach was followed and combined with agile methodologies to achieve the final working prototype. The project contributes with a tested system prototype that follows adequate design guidelines and best development practices. The system was systematically evaluated and makes use of state-of-the-art technologies that include an Android-powered tablet device and Google TV to provide support in the scope of dementia, which is a difficult yet increasingly important area of research.

 

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