Multimedia profiles as external personalities to support people with dementia and their carers

  • Gemma Webster

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Dementia is a growing problem with prevalence rapidly increasing. It is a progressive and eventually severe disease that affects many areas of the person’s life. Often, as a result of this disease, individuals reside in care homes. Care staff can find it difficult to get to know a person with dementia as they have limited time to spend with each person. In addition, communication difficulties can make it difficult to learn important social information and preferences. This lack of knowledge about an individual with dementia can make social interactions very difficult and can often contribute to repetitive social interactions. This research aimed to establish if technology could be used to support care staff within their care environment to get to know people with late-stage dementia. The goal was to develop software that can act as an external communication bridge between carers and people with dementia through the creation of simple but effective ‘Portraits’. This thesis investigates the creation and use of multimedia ‘Portraits’ of individuals with dementia that are immediately and easily accessible to care staff. This thesis describes the development of a software tool called Portrait, designed to help staff in care homes quickly get to know a person with dementia as a person. It is intended to be used by the staff in their care environment to gain an initial understanding of that person’s life prior to entering care and to learn more personal information about their needs and habits. The Portrait system contains important but limited personal and social information about the people with dementia. Five key studies were conducted during this research. The first study evaluated the usability of the Portrait system. The second and third were conducted with care managers and staff in the care home setting to assess usefulness and usability of the Portrait system and to compare it to current methods used in the care home environment. The fourth study conducted case studies with families of people with dementia to investigate the Portrait creation process and the final study investigated the placement of these Portraits in the care environment. The results of this research are promising, with Portrait being very positively received by care managers, care staff and the families of people with dementia. This research highlights the potential benefits of technology in the care environment to assist care staff. A number of key areas for future research have been identified including the possibility of expanding the use of the system and using alternative state of the art devices.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsBalhousie Care Group
    SupervisorVicki Hanson (Supervisor), Norman Alm (Supervisor) & Gary Gowans (Supervisor)


    • Multimedia
    • Dementia
    • Usability
    • Care aid

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