A digital enablement service for people with early stage dementia

Much has been achieved both nationally and locally for people with dementia and their carers. However, gaps remain and we need to plan for the future predicted increase across health, social care and the third sector.

At the same time significant budget cuts are being made to social services in the uk and care budgets are set to fall by 30% by 2020. There is a clear need to provide ‘more for less’ something that service design, particularly when combined with technology’s ability to improve efficiency and productivity, can provide.

To address this PDR (International Centre for Design & Research) have designed new ‘enablement services’ for those with early stage dementia. By using simple and readily available technology and resources this project aims to help the user and their carer plan and monitor their experience of dementia.

Planning tools for family members

Concept designs for the dementia service

The Process

The research stage of the design process focused on the re-ablement services and training currently provided by public authorities and health boards across Wales. This research took on a number of forms including desk research, surveys, meetings and insight workshops with carers, frontline staff and individuals with dementia.

This research provided a detailed insight into the current state of support services available in Wales. In Wales there are currently 300* people under 65 diagnosed with dementia each year. Often they are still at work, have dependents living with them and a number of financial commitments. This represents a very different scenario to the majority of people attending dementia specific services such as day centres and rehab units.

The project team then produced a number of prototypes, one of which was ‘the Enablement Service’. Enablement is different to traditional homecare as users are encouraged to develop, or re-develop the skills they have to give them the confidence to carry out tasks for themselves.

The purpose of the service is to address the increasing demand on health and social care services from people with dementia by acting earlier. This service is for people under 65 who have been diagnosed with dementia but have a limited choice of services due to the stage of their dementia. 

The service aims to shift users from expensive, face-to-face channels and onto more efficient digital channels such as email and online video. The central component of the Enablement Service is a web app that provides access to three distinct elements.

Trip Advisor for carers

Concept designs for the dementia service

1. Planning tools for family members

Interactive PDF tools will be available through the web app for users to download and use when planning an enablement strategy with a friend or family member. This will be supported by instructions and a video describing the process.

2. Enablement management

Collaborative enablement management includes an activity-planning tool, service directory, calendar, messaging service, and video conferencing clinic. The system is accessible by the person with dementia, their family, friends, caregivers and also healthcare professionals.

3. Trip Advisor for carers

A database of dementia friendly services will be updated and maintained by service users, providing reviews and feedback on services and their suitability for use by people with dementia.

An interactive survey is available through the web app. This will be the first call to action and upon completion will provide the individual and their families with information about activities relevant to the individual, inspiration for management strategies and next steps towards maintaining an independent life with dementia. 

These collaboratively designed new services focus on what the individual can do as opposed to what they can’t, and aim to ensure that people who have dementia are able to maintain a high quality of life for longer.

Upon completion of the demonstration project described here, The Welsh Government have invested £42,000 in the Dementia Enablement Service. This will launch in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan in early 2016. 

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