Companion is a reminder app that increases the self-sufficiency of early-stage dementia patients through three types of reminders: time-critical reminders, location-based reminders and family-based reminders. It does so by gathering information from various sources and using that data to ensure its users complete critical tasks.
One of the major hurdles faced by early-stage dementia patients is the inability to remain financially independent, as found in our preliminary research. Part of the reason for this is that financial obligations (e.g. paying phone/utility bills) are time-critical and inflexible. Helping users manage this is a crucial first step in reducing their dependence on others.
Time-critical reminders help in reducing dependance. By parsing through a user’s email account, Companion makes use of notification emails (e.g. an e-phone bill) to gauge the user’s most critical upcoming tasks and gives them timely reminders accordingly. Additionally, it notes when the task has been completed. Time-critical reminders would be of great help for users to meet basic routine financial obligations, eliminating the need for caregivers to constantly oversee the finances of the dementia patients.
Another major problem for dementia patients is remembering to complete routine tasks, such as grocery shopping or returning books to libraries. Reminders for such tasks can be made more effectively by basing them off of location. This means using information about the users’ current location, anticipated location, and even movements from the previous week. Suppose the app had previously received notifications about an overdue book, and the user was leaving for work. If the library were on the path to the user’s destination, Companion would immediately remind them about the overdue book. Offering reminders tailored to one’s unique individual routine means that the user would be more likely to complete the task on time.
Companion also aims to strengthen family bonds. The feature of family-based reminders would allow family members to set reminders for Companion users, which the users could then accept or reject. This could be useful to set reminders for family dinners or general gatherings. The user could also opt to give family members access to their reminder list. In this manner, they could keep a tab on the user, helping the user if the need arises, while allowing them to remain largely independent. It also adds another source of information for the app in order to ensure it can track important events for the user and remind them about them.
The three type of reminders are not necessarily mutually exclusive, rather, three general classifications that guide us on how to remind the user about them. The three methods of sourcing for information (through email, location API and family) can augment one another to more effectively keep track of the tasks awaiting the user’s attention. For instance, if a user receives an email notice to pick up his/her package at a post office, there is a deadline attached to that notification (time-critical reminder). However, the user is more likely to take action on that reminder if it is given when he/she is close to the post office. In this manner, reminders can be tailored using aspects of time-critical and location-based reminders to maximise the effectiveness of the reminder.
Companion responds to the rapid increase in the amount of personal data that can be accessed through smartphones and the internet. Companies increasingly send bills to customers through email instead of traditional paper notices. We now have access to precise information about the location of our loved ones through smartphone GPS technology. It is imperative that we use this currently untapped world of data to protect the most vulnerable among us. Companion aims to achieve that, helping those most in need, and keeping them and their families happier as dementia becomes a greater problem for our aging population.
User Experience Map (includes mock up illustration of app)
Situation: 66 Year old Grace, suffering from early-stage dementia, realizes she forgot to pay her bills on time once again and has been charged a late fee.
Solution: Grace turns to the Companion app, to avoid forgetting critical tasks in the future. This allows her to remain independent, rather than requiring her loved ones to constantly check on her.
App mock-up: In-app list of reminder categories desired by Grace including phone bills, library book return, family dinner plan and grocery shopping reminders
App mock-up: Intelligent reminders predicting useful information to provide Grace at the given time and location
App mock-up: Family members can use the app to add reminders for Grace from their phones, Grace can then choose to accept the reminder (will be added to her list) , or she can reject it. Her family will receive a notification about her choice
App mock-up: Basic reminder list for Grace to check her upcoming tasks
- To help families keep patients at home for as long as possible, McClendon advocates expanding support services and training for caregivers.
- A 2005 report from the Alzheimer’s Association showed troubling trends in care at the end of life. In a sweeping review of the medical literature, the investigators found that 71 percent of nursing home residents with advanced dementia died within six months of admission, yet only 11 percent were referred to hospice care, which focuses on comfort rather than active treatment
- 42% of people aged 65 and above currently own smartphones
- 74% of people between the ages of 50 and 64 own smartphones, increasing the potential for usage of the app as the years pass