PhD Program in Design


Codesigning communication in dementia

How can communication design empower people with dementia and their families to find personalised strategies to improve their experience of dementia?

Rita Maldonado Branco


Growing figures of dementia and the progressive amount of care needed makes this condition a current global priority in public healthcare. Dementia progressively affects cognitive functions such as memory and communication, resulting in a constant process of adaptation for people with dementia and those around them. As the disease progresses and memory weakens, communicating with people with dementia often becomes difficult.

The research focuses on the communication between people with dementia and their families. The main objective is to find whether strategies of codesign can be adapted to the context of dementia care, considering if communication design can empower people with dementia and their families to create their own personalised strategies to communicate and interact, and if this can have an effect on their wellbeing. Therefore, the aim is to create ways of enabling people with dementia and their close families to be codesigners of their journey through dementia.
As a second objective, the research is looking at methods, and how to possibly redesign them, to conduct primary research and include people with dementia in the participatory design process.

Drawing upon ethnographic and participatory methods and with the support from dementia care specialists, primary research will be undertaken with those suffering from and dealing with dementia. The study aims to identify, test and analyse current designs for dementia in order to redefine the contribution of design for the personal and family experience of dementia. The qualitative information gathered will inform the design practice, that should be complemented with further codesign workshops with users. Stages of the research will be carried out linked to a practice-based, user-centred approach, where prototypes may be produced, and the testing, evaluation and reflection on these outcomes, and consequent iterations, will be a constant theme of all the research stages.

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