From the Series
The London-based industrial design team Mettle Studio has designed a tiny device that aims to alleviate the stress of caring for a mental patient as well as to safeguard them from dangerous situations.
The device was envisaged by Natalie Price who is the daughter of a full-time caregiver of dementia patients. She recognised that a major side-effect of dementia is the tendency to wander. Patients who suffer from this condition have little mindfulness of their whereabouts, which allows them to stray into potentially hazardous territory and unknown areas.
Thus, it is commonplace to restrict the movement of dementia patients quite harshly or maintain surveillance on their location which can become strenuous and indelicate. The Proximity Care button aims to combat this, benefitting both the patient and the custodian. The button houses a minuscule radio that emits a low energy Bluetooth frequency to a paired smartphone application. Should the wearer wander far beyond the 20-meter reach of the beacon’s signal radius, an alarm is activated on the smartphone.
The device’s design is simple and inconspicuous. It is a small, looped button that features a magnetised clasp that can be fastened to a collar or lapel with ease. It has an elastic silicon strap which connects both sides of the fastening point. It is made from aluminium and a smooth plastic-rubber composite, which makes it water-resistant and strong. The design can be attached to any item of clothing and worn without distracting the wearer.
The designers at Mettle Studio understood that not only does the device itself need to be user-friendly and straightforward but the accompanying app would have to be clear and intuitive too. Preparatory research showed the developers that the average caregiver to a mental patient does not have extensive experience of smartphone applications. The interface designers were careful to keep the Proximity app simple. To confuse the user would be counterproductive to the point of the product. Therefore the app features step-by-step prompts on how to get started, vibrant action buttons and simplified instructions on how to pair a headset with Proximity buttons via Bluetooth.
Research and development of solutions to alleviate the anxiety of caring for a mental patient is more important now than ever before. Approximately 44 million people across the globe currently suffer from dementia and the figure is projected to double every two decades. This device allows some breathing room for both parties. Dementia patients can enjoy increased mobility and privacy while their caregivers have peace of mind.