Prerna (pronounced pray-r-nah) is the outcome of my team’s participation in a design competition at the University of Michigan named ‘Innovation in Action’. The word Prerna is derived from Sanskrit which means inspiration. We initially began with the prompt: How might we help improve everyday lives of people with Dementia?. But through field research, we discovered that a larger unaddressed need in this space was the lack of support for caregivers of people with Dementia. So, we decided to address an alternate prompt: How might we better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with Dementia?
Wire-framing and User Testing
More than 15 million Americans are Primary Caregivers for people living with Dementia. Primary caregivers undergo high levels of intense stress due to various factors, but the current health system fails to address this. So, Dementia caregivers are left to feel overwhelmed, overworked and lonely.
Dementia Caregivers are found to provide 20-40 hours of unpaid care each week. This amounts to 18 Billion work hours lost every year.
Not only are they missing a portion of their income, they also spend more than $5,000 a year from their savings. This causes immense financial and emotional stress.
49% of Dementia caregivers are found to experience high levels of stress. This leads to 63% of them experiencing signs of depression, and also leaves their immune systems affected for the next three years.
Prerna, a mobile application for Dementia caregivers that serves as a care management and collaboration tool to reduce stress associated with caregiving.
Friends & Family in one place
Set up your support network of family and friends in a single place so you can share responsibilities. It’s easy to forget the good moments and stories when you are a long-term caregiver. Let your network know how your loved one is doing and create a shared timeline of memories.
Organized care management
Enable friends and family to offer help in real ways and skip the hesitation of asking. Share a calendar with your friends and family to co-ordinate doctor’s visits, grocery pick ups and other tasks. Use the to-do list to get tasks done and have clear accountability, so you can spend more time with your loved one and not stress about miscommunication.
Never lose touch
The service sends appropriately timed reminders to the caregiving network to check up on the primary caregivers. This way, caregivers do not feel the stigma of seeking support or the stress of coordinating care. Prerna does it for them.
The contextual intelligence and behavioral techniques built into the prompts differentiate it from other care management tools.
We conducted 5 in-person interviews, which included 3 Dementia caregivers and 2 medical practitioners. We conducted these at people’s homes and at the hospital to ensure we were receiving authentic, unfiltered stories. The major pain points identified were:
Fear of Seeking Help: Caregivers expressed hesitation to reach out for help. A common reason was that it felt awkward to ask for favors. In further conversations, we learnt that their families and friends would have offered to help, but caregivers did not know how to delegate tasks or would hesitate to reach out if it’s been a while since they last met.
Lack of Appreciation: A common theme among our interviewees was that they felt that caregiving for dementia patients is a thankless job. They felt nobody appreciated how much effort they put in. One of the medical practitioners we interviewed was a Geriatric Specialist who has over the years seen many Dementia caregivers being highly stressed. She believed this is because the medical system does not consider caregivers a priority, which is why most available solutions on the market focus on the person with Dementia and not the caregiver.
Lack of Support: Dementia caregiving tends to be a long-term period*. Most had been caregiving for years and over time, their social circles forgot to check up on them. They expected a higher level of involvement and accountability from their families.
*Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) dementia caregivers have provided care for more than a year, and three in ten have provided care for more than five years.
Lack of Communication: Even after the caregivers had managed to seek help, they experienced frequent co-ordination and communication issues. Family dynamics and communication issues added stress to the experience of caregiving.
Guilt: The biggest pain point that we heard over and over again in every interview was guilt. Each of these families were doing their absolute best in caregiving for their loved ones, but somehow each of them felt guilty of not doing enough!
We conducted a Competitive Analysis to identify gaps between what is available and user needs. We analyzed mobile apps like CaringBridge, CareZone, Balance and Life 360. From application reviews and exploration, we saw that each of the available solutions addressed a subset of a Dementia Caregiver’s needs, but there was no one-stop application for Care Management. More importantly, we identified the opportunity to promote network engagement.
Our value proposition spans across stakeholders. For caregivers it means more support and appreciation. For patients, it means personalized care from the family. For families, it means effective and involved care management. And for hospitals, it means shared burden of care and benefits of being patient family centered.