Research for Dementia

This project was completed as part of a research initiative between Carleton University, the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE)  and Bruyère Research Institute.  Our goal was to redesign a smart home system to assist persons with dementia (PWD) and their caregivers (CG) surrounding the dangers of nighttime wandering. Working as a team, each member designed a concept with integrated SAM3 technology, which stand for Sensors and Analytics for Monitoring Mobility and Memory.



A smart home system for persons with dementia.


March 2019 | Duration: 3 weeks | Team and Individual Project

Research & Analysis

We began this project by visiting the Bruyère Hospital, which helped us familiarize ourselves with the current technologies and problems that exist with the system. Our main focus was to alleviate the emotions that the PWD might experience during nighttime wandering (e.g. confusion and paranoia) and improve the sensor housings for better camouflage and function, all while reducing the anxiety and need for intervention by the caregiver.

Pressure-sensitive mat is very costly and sets off if PWD does not lie directly above it.
Alerts set off by door sensors may startle the PWD. Housing is difficult to open when replacing batteries.
Motion sensors are noticeable and instill fear of "being watched."

Conceptualization & Synthesis

I focused on the issue of wandering outside of the house. Having left their bedroom, PWDs often forget why they got up and will continue wandering in search of what they forgot. Although they should be allowed to safely wander their own home, one of the most dangerous scenarios is exiting the house. As a solution, my concept involves two elements: the first is a proximity sensor at each exit and the second is an audio-visual nightlight that gently diverts the PWD away from the door and back to bed.

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Concept development sketches

Wireframe Sketches

Another aspect of this project was to design the user interface of an app for the entire smart system. Our team developed a cohesive design language with key elements to include (e.g. pages and features). I jotted additional information for the pages of my individual product.

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Scenario Mapping

We created a scale model from a sample floor plan to anticipate the paths that a PWD might take. Since I was designing for near elopement scenarios, my sensors were positioned at the main exits of the house (highlighted in red). Audio-visual nightlights were placed on nearby walls and those leading back towards the master bedroom (highlighted in blue).

System model and scenario mapping: nightlights (drawn as blue squares) are placed to guide the PWD back to the master bedroom

Final Concept

When inactive, the simple design of the nightlight does not draw attention and is perceived as a generic wall light. At night, a proximity sensor activates the nearest nightlight device and the PWD is gently diverted away from the exit using audio and visual cues. Caregivers can calmly view updates about the PWD on their phone knowing that their loved one is safely wandering at home and will soon be headed back to bed.

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Final presentation of team system addressing issues with indoor/outdoor wandering and falling

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