Smile: Capturing and Sharing Personal Photos to Stimulate Social Relations and Support Self-Identity in Dementia

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Dementia Lab 2021: Supporting Ability Through Design, 2021, 2, pp. 83-93
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As dementia progresses, it often prompts changes to living arrangements and care provision as people with dementia are required to move from their home environment into long-term care. Over time, family members may lose touch with the everyday lives of people with dementia and no longer share the everyday moments that preserve identity and social connection. In this paper, we present Smile: a camera-based system that captures and shares photos of residents with their caregivers or relatives visiting the dementia care environment. We conducted a four-week in-context study with Smile to explore how this design intervention could support existing relations with relatives and initiate new social interactions with the care staff. Our results indicate that capturing and sharing photos (1) provided the family with insights into the everyday lives of the residents, (2) enhanced the quality of social encounters, and (3) retained dignity and offered a sense of normalcy to the residents. We discuss the implications of using camera-based systems in dementia care to strengthen social relations and provide opportunities to reinforce identity and provide agency through choices made about appearances.
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