Incorporation of carer and patient needs in the development of assistive technology for people with dementia

Sonja O'Neill, Guido Parente, Mark Donnelly, Kyle Boyd, SI McClean, BW Scotney, Sarah Mason, David Craig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In the development of assistive technology for people with dementia, numerous physiological, anatomical and psychological variables should be taken into consideration during the design process. Many of these will not be obvious to those from a purely technical perspective targeting this type of user for the first time. As a result, these important variables only become apparent following user evaluations. Nevertheless, people with dementia can experience high levels of anxiety and confusion if the systems they are engaging with malfunction. To a certain extent this may have the impact of undermining their confidence which may lead to reluctance to try improved versions in ensuing evaluation cycles. This presents a barrier to using users with dementia in participatory design activities early in the design cycle.The presented approach is a combination of methodologies which have been used to assess user needs, such as cognitive walk-throughs, questioning the carer as a proxy of the patient and informal interviews with both carer and patient. Following the implementation of the technology, short trials were performed, limiting the potential for feelings of anxiety and confusion if the technology did not perform as expected. Subsequently, longer evaluations over several weeks have been performed, allowing the patients to incorporate the technology into their life. Weekly check up meetings allowed discussions relating to the benefits and concerns regarding the technology and any wishes for further functionality. Overall, feedback was gained by more than 40 patients and their carers.The involvement of users of assistive technology in the design and implementation stages is crucial to ensure subsequent uptake of the technology by the target user group. People with dementia can benefit immensely from such equipment, increasing or maintaining their independence whilst lowering the carer burden. The negligence to incorporate the subjective views of carers and patients, however, will lead to technology that may be delivering the required functionality but will not find acceptance by its targeted users and will thus fail in its quest to support.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Ergonomics and Human Factors 2011
PublisherTaylor & Francis
ISBN (Print)978-0415675734
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2011


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