Developing Assistive Technology to Support Reminiscence Therapy: A User-Centered Study to Identify Caregivers' Needs

Soraia M. Alarcão, André Santana, Carolina Maruta, Manuel J. Fonseca

Reminiscence therapy is an inexpensive non-pharmacological therapy commonly used due to its therapeutic value for PwD, as it can be used to promote independence, positive moods and behavior, and improve their quality of life. Caregivers are one of the main pillars in the adoption of digital technologies for reminiscence therapy, as they are responsible for its administration. Despite their comprehensive understanding of the needs and difficulties associated with the therapy, their perspective has not been fully taken into account in the development of existing technological solutions. To inform the design of technological solutions within dementia care, we followed a user-centered design approach through worldwide surveys, follow-up semi-structured interviews, and focus groups. Seven hundred and seven informal and 52 formal caregivers participated in our study. Our findings show that technological solutions must provide mechanisms to carry out the therapy in a simple way, reducing the amount of work for caregivers when preparing and conducting therapy sessions. They should also diversify and personalize the current session (and following ones) based on both the biographical information of the PwD and their emotional reactions. This is particularly important since the PwD often become agitated, aggressive or angry, and caregivers might not know how to properly deal with this situation (in particular, the informal ones). Additionally, formal caregivers need an easy way to manage information of the different PwD they take care of, and consult the history of sessions performed (in particular, to identify images that triggered negative emotional reactions, and consult any notes taken about them). As a result, we present a list of validated functional requirements gathered for the PwD and both formal and informal caregivers, as well as the corresponding expected primary and secondary outcomes.

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