Supporting Informal Dementia Caregivers

Product Name: CareKit: Tools for the Caregiver

Research and Problem Statement

As of September 2019, approximately 50 million people worldwide have dementia. In the next 30 years, this number is estimated to triple by 2050 (World Health Organization, 2019). Dementia is not going anywhere, and neither are the people who provide care to those impacted.

It is likely that everyone knows someone who is affected by dementia or another type of memory impairment. With varying degrees of care needed daily, there are individuals who voluntarily spend their time providing this care to their loved ones. With no formal medical or cognitive behavioral training, the majority of this community is providing care on their own time and with no prior experience. These informal caregivers have their own needs and challenges too, as providing care can rapidly become stressful, overwhelming, and draining.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is unlike other types of caregiving. Dementia caregivers not only have to cope with the cognitive decline and behavioral changes of their loved one, but they also have to manage the loss of a relationship as it once was.

As the number of people with dementia steadily increases every year, more and more individuals are taking on their loved one’s care. Regardless of why or when someone takes on this role, they put themselves at risk for mental, emotional, and physical challenges as a result of their responsibilities. Fortunately, resources for this community are increasing, but the number of caregivers is rising even faster, along with their needs. Many carers are unaware of what outside help exists, what support is available, and how to access it. Additionally, there is a common belief among caregivers that they are not doing enough or are helping their loved one ineffectively. It is essential that these individuals understand their worth, significance, and impact as a caregiver and beyond.

So this begs the question, how might we address the challenges, struggles, and consequences of being an informal dementia caregiver?

World Health Organization. (2019). Dementia Key Facts. Retrieved from World Health Organization website.


Mobile App Solution

CareKit: Tools for the Caregiver, is a mobile application that addresses the daily challenges of a dementia caregiver. Caregivers are easily able to access the help and support they need right from their phone. Many caregivers are unable to find the time or energy to spend on themselves. CareKit is designed with their time constraints and personal needs at its’ core. By telling the application how you feel, the user is presented with content specific to their situation and how they feel right now.

With the same goal and brand, CareKit fits seamlessly into the existing system the Alzheimer’s Association has created, but with complete focus on the caregiver. The Alzheimer’s Association is known for being the leading organization in search of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Many do not know the resources this organization provides to caregivers though. The organization states on their website, “Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia often involves a team of people. Whether you provide daily caregiving, participate in decision making, or simply care about a person with the disease — we have resources to help” (Alzheimer’s Association, 2020). The Alzheimer’s Association has created a brand caregivers trust, recognize, and look to for answers.

CareKit is an extension of these resources, with a focus on providing self-care, as well as easily connecting users with outside support and opportunities. Caregivers can record daily affirmations, read words of reassurance, and listen to quick 3-minute podcasts and guided meditations selected just for them. CareKit gives these individuals the opportunity to learn about local programs, events, and support groups. By finding a sense of community, caregivers are able to seek the outside support and reassurance they need to keep going. The application connects users with immediate access to the Alzheimer’s Associations’ 24/7 helplines, so they are never alone even when they feel otherwise. At times of need, CareKit is right in your pocket with the tools to help you succeed.

CareKit UI
CareKit UI
Alzheimer's Association webpage about application
Alzheimer’s Association webpage about application
CareKit "My Check-In History" page in use
CareKit “My Check-In History” page in use

CareKit Prototype (Interactive prototype- click the app below to open it!)
Keyboard accessible Prototype (follow link, and tab through screens)