Cultivating Shared Experiences Between Caregivers And Their Loved Ones With Dementia

This series shares the journey and motivations of participating teams at Designathon We Remember 2018, which empowers the community to come together to design for dementia! We speak to team ‘HoBo’ about their experience in designing for dementia.
By Wee Yan Ran

Tell us about your team! What was your motivation in joining Designathon We Remember 2018?

Niki, Mulu and I are colleagues from Costello Medical, a medical communications agency which provides scientific support to the healthcare sector in the analysis, interpretation and communication of clinical and health economic data.

We also invited my mother, Elizabeth, to join our team as she has had decades of experience as a caregiver of multiple family members with dementia, and was able to provide us with valuable first-hand insights on the day-to-day realities of caring for persons with dementia.

Most of us on the team were inspired to take part in Designathon We Remember 2018 as we have been personally affected by family members or have friends who were coping with a loved one living with dementia.

Why is support for caregivers and their loved ones with dementia important?

We came together to discuss our own personal experiences with the condition and found that there were quite a few common problems faced by people with dementia and their caregivers here in Singapore, and there were many unmet needs that could be addressed.

In particular, our discussions often turned to the emotional and psychological challenges that we have faced or seen our family members face. While persons with dementia and their caregivers also deal with many logistical and physical challenges, we think that this emotional aspect resonated with us the most because in the end, dementia affects the people that we love, and this can take a mental toll on caregivers and persons with dementia alike and create strife among family and friends.

Besides the negative emotions faced as family caregivers such as frustration, pressure, feeling useless or isolation, we also remembered the positive experiences that we have shared with our parents and grandparents.

We wanted to cultivate more positive shared social experiences like these, and this was why we wanted to work on a tool to encourage interaction and strengthen relationships between persons with dementia and their loved ones.

How do you think your idea will support families?

All of us have fond memories of our grandparents telling us stories or giving us advice based on their wealth of life experience; at the same time, our grandparents also enjoy sharing their knowledge and reminiscing about the past. We wanted to cultivate more positive shared social experiences like these, which is why we designed a game to encourage interaction and strengthen relationships between persons with dementia and their loved ones.

Ho Bo, which is a Hokkien translation for “How are you?”, is a co-operative, non-competitive board game. We want to take the pressure off of any one person, and instead create a space where families or groups of loved ones can come together to have a fun, stress-free time. To focus on engaging and having conversations with your loved one with dementia, and not just on the stressors of being a caregiver.

This is also why we designed the gameplay to be simple and open so that it is both accessible and adaptable to different situations and ability levels.

What was your experience at Designathon We Remember 2018?

At first, we were pretty intimidated at the idea of joining the Designathon as we were comparing our, rustic idea with the ambitious, high-tech proposals of the other teams, who all seemed to be programmers and IT experts. However, as we were first-time participants in an event like this, our main goal was to take it all in and learn as much as possible!

Even if not all of it was directly relevant to our product, we learned a lot about making and prototyping in the workshops that were organised for the Designathon. We were also very excited to learn to use the 3D printers, and this eventually also led to our decision to incorporate some physical tokens into our board game.

What’s next?

We’ve learned so much from the 3-day event and were very glad to see our idea come to life in the short time we had! We are very excited to test out our game with our target audience soon. We will first start with our own family members. We are also planning visits to nursing homes or daycare centers so that we can observe how different caregivers, seniors and persons with dementia interact with our game.

We look forward to putting our small idea to the test in the real world and continuing to refine our game to best meet the needs of caregivers and persons with dementia in Singapore and elsewhere.

Designathon We Remember 2018 (DWR18) looks to empower the community to come together to design for dementia! The event brings together designers, developers, entrepreneurs, students, caregivers and their loved ones with dementia, healthcare workers, and social service providers to collaborate and identify design solutions for persons with dementia and their caregivers in Singapore. Various activities were held from August through September 2018 to encourage the wider community to view dementia from different perspectives and explore how we can design for dementia.

DWR18 is organised by OneMaker Group and Project We Forgot. The event is supported by the DesignSingapore Council and the OurSingapore Fund. Hosted at the National Design Centre

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