How do we ease the burden dementia places on caregivers?


Scope: 8 weeks

Role: Conducted Interviews with Caregivers and Medical Professionals, Strategy Brainstorming Sessions, Overall Design Process

Collaborators: Kinjal Shah, Scott Cowell

Summary: The number of people living with dementia is increasing. The disease places massive emotional and financial strain on caregivers. As dementia develops, there are many years of mild and moderate impairment leading up to a more severe disease state that requires a long term care setting. Driving emerged from interviews with caretakers as a significant burden in the early stages of the disease. We pitched an on-demand car service specially equipped for providing transportation for individuals in early to moderate stages of dementia.




Dementia is a chronic condition. Symptoms range from memory loss and impaired reasoning to personality changes and emotional instability. This debilitating disease places an extraordinary burden on patients and their caregivers.

Better healthcare is allowing people to live longer, age is the primary risk factor for dementia By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer's disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million

 There are more than 5.4 million people suffer from dementia in the United States, alone.

There are more than 5.4 million people suffer from dementia in the United States, alone.

 In 2015, an average caregiver spent more than 1,200 hours in unpaid care.

In 2015, an average caregiver spent more than 1,200 hours in unpaid care.

 In the US more than 40% of caregivers face this challenge alone.  

In the US more than 40% of caregivers face this challenge alone.  

 60% of caregivers reported having extremely high levels of day-to-day stress.

60% of caregivers reported having extremely high levels of day-to-day stress.


Our strategy was to focus on extending independence and providing cheaper care giving services to those with pre and mild dementia.

Dementia advances slowly and patients can exhibit symptoms and have impaired ability for up to a decade, before they progress to a severe stage of the disease necessitating round the clock care.  During the progression of the disease patients experience a progressive loss of function. In the earlier stages of the disease, the patient has decreased ability to remember, keep appointments, travel alone and drive. Moderate stages are marked by loss of the ability to perform basic daily tasks such as grooming or selecting clothes and the patient can exhibit poor judgment and impulsivity. Finally in the most severe stages of the disease, the patient loses the ability to do all tasks of daily living without assistance.


Due to the impairment of the disease, we expect our product to be purchased by the caregiver. We need to sell our product to the caregiver on the basis that it relieves some of their burden and satisfies the patient needs and keeps them safe.




We conducted a series of interviews talking with industry professionals and caregivers to learn the specific needs of this population.

Interviews with Industry Professionals

Jen Avallone, M.D., Angel Duncan and Amy Vickers of McKinsey consulting provided us with invaluable feedback during our research and design process.


Interviews with Caregivers

We performed and filmed two in-depth interviews with caregivers to get deep, first-hand insight into the experience of caregiving for someone with dementia.



Scott is 35 years old and single. He is the sole caretaker of his father, age 65, who was recently diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which is an intermediate diagnosis made before dementia. His father lives about an hour from his apartment and recently suffered further cognitive decline precipitated by cancer surgery.


Scott tells us about his background and introduces us to his father, Mitchell.

Scott shares his story about his father's diagnosis and tells us about some of the challenges.

Scott talks about his experience with gaps in care continuity.

Scott shares his views on the social implications of caring for those with dementia.



Temma is 55 years old, single and acted as caretaker for an older friend who suffered from familial early onset dementia.  It has been over ten years that Bo has been living with dementia. She was placed in a long term care facility a few years ago. Temma visits her regularly.


Temma tells us about her background and introduces us to her friend Bo.

Temma shares some of the details about how Bo became ill and how her diagnosis shifted the dynamics of their lifelong relationship.


Temma shares some of the hardships she experienced in caring for her friend. Long-term care management, health insurance and finances were among the toughest challenges.


Caregiver Video

Additionally we used part of Scott's interview and worked with him to prepare a video on the strains of being a caregiver for our pitch presentation.



The ability to drive is lost early during the progress of dementia and it is a significant source of stress for caregivers. We started brainstorming if there was a way to bring a P2P model like Uber to medical transportation service and keep the costs low.


Market Research

We saw an opportunity for a convenient, reasonably priced service equipped to deal with the needs and safety concerns specific to people with dementia.

  • Public transit is the only option available for most people because of price, but essentially impossible for people with dementia to use as walking to and from stops is risky.
  • Publically subsidized paratransit service is cheap but you have to schedule in advance; it’s only available during working hours and you have to apply in person and be evaluated to be eligible.
  • Uber hits a reasonable price point, but it is not geared for people with dementia and the drivers are not prepared to handle their special needs.
  • Non Emergency Medical Transport is equipped for handling dementia patients but it is expensive and inconvenient


The P2P business model has proven itself reliable in hitting a price point lower than that of a traditional centralized business. Our service will be structured similar to uber and a platform for drivers classified as independent contractors to be linked with dementia patients in need of transportation.

  • Door to Door: It's critical for impaired older people to be provided with door to door service. This presents unique challenges as greater trust is demanded.
  • Dashcamera/Video Conferencing: For the caregivers peace of mind, all cars are equipped with a tablet. They can access the webcam and see the state of their loved one or videoconference at any time.
  • Training from the Dementia Care Providers of America: It is critical that people providing care for individuals with dementia have training to prepare them for communication difficulties.
  • Safety Locks: Drivers are instructed to equip safety locks in the back during the duration of the entire trip.

User Experience Video


We made a video to illustrate a typical customer experience with the service.


Pitch Presentation


On December 19th, 2016 we pitched our proposal to a panel of industry experts that had gathered at SVA IxD.