How can the amount of intervention needed by caregivers, specifically in the morning hours for Alzheimer’s patients be reduced?
background AND PROBLEM AREA
Suffering from a disease that affects their cognitive abilities, Alzheimer’s patients struggle with simple tasks, many of which take place in the morning. Patients struggle to get dressed, as the order in which they need to put on the clothes is no longer obvious and intuitive. For this reason, and to avoid frustration, the Alzheimer’s Association has posted on their website several “tips” for the patient’s family and caregivers to follow when it comes to dressing. Some of these recommendations include:
1. Simplify choices
2. Organize the process
3. Pick comfortable and simple clothing
4. Choose Comfortable shoes
5. Be flexible
These websites are directed in a greater measure towards the patient’s families and caregivers instead of the patients themselves, potentially increasing the burden for families and caregivers. For this reason, the problem area was rethought and instead of focusing on ways to improve only the life of the person suffering the disease, the project was also directed towards their family and caregivers.
In a 1992 paper titled ”Dressing independently: A closet modification model for Alzheimer’s disease patients,” Kevan H. Namazi, and Beth DiNatale Johnson explored how altering a patient’s closet, would affect the degree of independence “according to the level of caregiver’s intervention”.
As a result, they were able to prove that having limited choices of what to wear and having the clothes organized in the order in which they were to be worn increased the level of independence of the patient. They also found that although the physical prompts decreased, caregivers verbal prompts increased by 38%.
Having this research and the recommendations given by the Alzheimer’s Association in mind, the proposed design shows a closet model for an Alzheimer’s patient. In it, the digital panel displays the clock with the present day, personal information, and images chosen prior by family members and approved by the caregiver and/or doctor for orientation purposes. Additionally, weather information allows the patient to better understand the clothing option to reduce frustration. For economic purposes, materials such as E-paper, Gyricon, and E-ink will be used in the panel.
This model will be organized and will
- Reduce choices and decisions that need to be made
- Clothing will be organized by outfit
- Clothing will be organized in the correct sequence
This figure illustrates the levels of access that relatives and caregivers will have when it comes to the content of the closet and the panel. Patients will collaborate with the caregivers to select the clothes for the week while caregivers will review the information relatives sent to be displayed in the panel.
Further research and user tests are needed to improve the prototype. This prototype has the potential to not only serve as a way to decrease the intervention by caregivers and family but also as a therapeutic approach to not only Alzheimer’s patients but dementia, and stroke patients too. Moreover, this is a prototype that could be modified for accessibility purposes and more than a product it serves as a model that can be adapted to any patient.