Assisting Alzheimer's everyday


Appheimer is a reminder app for people with Alzheimer's and Dementia offering assistance with their daily routine.

The app supports caregivers as well, allowing them to monitor daily tasks, schedule appointments, featuring an integrated GPS, that is immediately alerted when the Emergency button is tapped by the user - sending a notification in form of an e-mail or text message to his caregiver(s) with the users exact location and distance.






JANUARY 10 - JUNE 15, 2018





The initial idea was to design a smartwatch app tracking movements by applying machine learning, in under 72 hours at the Hackathon event hosted by the Technical University Munich (TUM).

I wanted to create something meaningfull and helpfull to an individual. And then I remembered, I was working with seniors who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's back when I was still in college. On my last trip to Italy, for the first time I noticed how almost all seniors owned a smartphone. While I was at the Hackathon event brainstorming what to create, all the dots started connecting and I decided to build an Alzheimer's assistant app for seniors. 

After the event I decided to revisit the original design idea and modify its concept. When I started the case study for Appheimer, my focus wasn't solely on one user but I realized that the caregivers must be fully included as well, since they are a big part and help in a life of an AD's patient.

I designed a dual app - assisting the user in their daily life and additional management for the caregivers


  • Helping the user to prioritize their daily tasks

  • Reducing the knowledge needed to complete an objective


  • Integrating caregivers into the app

  • Designing a more personable and intuitive user interface




  • Understanding Alzheimer’s

  • Caregivers

  • Technology and the Older Generation


  • Personas

  • Color Psychology and Design

  • Rapid Prototyping


  • Appheimer Prototype

  • Wireframes & Sketches



Understanding Alzheimer's

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France


Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. 

Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are sixty five years old and older. Alzheimer's has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer's treatments cannot stop Alzheimer's from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.  

(Source: Alzheimer's Association. What is Alzheimer's).


Alzheimer’s Statistics


  • Worldwide, nearly 46.8 million people have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. (Alzheimer’s Disease International)

  • Only 1-in-4 people with Alzheimer’s disease have been diagnosed. (Alzheimer’s Disease International)

  • Alzheimer's is more prevalent after the age 65 in women with 65.4% and men with 34.6%

  • Alzheimer’s and dementia is most common in Western Europe (North America is close behind).


Source:  Alzheimer’s Association (Facts and Figures), Alzheimer's Disease International (Dementia Statistics).




Alzheimer's and Dementia is overwhelming not only for the people who have it, but also for their caregivers and families.

Alzheimer's caregivers frequently report experiencing high levels of stress. 

It can be overwhelming to take care of a loved one with Alzheimer's or other dementia, but too much stress can be harmful for both. Planning and scheduling has been the most sufficient way to handle stress and upcoming appointments not only for a caregiver but  for every healthy individual anyways. So why not apply it to someone in great need of it and also offer them an easy way to organize everything efficiently.


AD and Dementia Caregivers Statistics on Stress

One in six millennial caregivers cares for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, study finds.

  • Sole caregiver: Roughly 42 percent of millennial dementia caregivers are sole caregivers and the overwhelming majority (79%) reported that accessing affordable outside help was very difficult.

  • Travel and transportation: Most millennial dementia caregivers (84 percent) do not live in the same household with the person they care for, and 16 percent had to travel more than an hour to provide care.

  • Caregiving activities: The most common caregiving activities include helping with transportation (79 percent), shopping (76 percent), and communicating with health care professionals (70 percent).

  • Emotional distress: Caregivers feel emotional distress (79 percent) was a major caregiving burden and wanted more help to deal with this hardship.

  • Interference with work: About one out of two millennial dementia caregivers said that caregiving interfered with work, and 33 percent reported consequences led to losing job benefits or being fired, among other impacts.



When I decided to include the caregivers into Appheimer, I started approaching the design process differently; looking at every function inside the app as a reliable companion.

Creating a Daily Plan

A planned day allows a Caregiver to spend less time trying to figure out what to do and more time on activities that provide meaning and enjoyment. Setting priorities and executing those without too much effort go a long way in managing a day successfully.

Here is a list of challenges/priorities each Caregiver (and Alzheimer's patient) faces day to day:

  • Organizing the day

  • Overseeing Medication

  • Safety for the Alzheimer's patient

  • Managing Appointments

  • Writting an overall plan


Technology and

the Older Generation


Although seniors consistently have lower rates of technology adoption than the general public, this group is more digitally connected than ever.

Four-in-ten seniors now own smartphones, more than double the share they did so in 2013 according to Pew Research Center. The good news is the older generation are embracing technology, especially apps, due to their life-changing potential. 

Once seniors are online, they engage at high levels with digital devices and content

  • Among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90% go online and 82% have broadband at home.

  • For seniors earning less than $30,000 annually, 39% go online and 25% have broadband at home.

  • Fully 87% of seniors with a college degree go online, and 76% are broadband adopters.

  • Among seniors who have not attended college, 40% go online and just 27% have broadband at home.


If that is the case, the questions I ask myself are:

  • What apps do Seniors enjoy using and find value in?

  • How can I (or We) help them to get even more integrated in this digital era and age?

or more importantly:

  • How to bridge their needs with technology? 

I tried to answer each of these questions with implementing design thinking into this app prototype.


Outtake from "Under the Tuscan Sun".


A little backstory note

Two years ago while I was visiting Rome and using the metro a couple of times I looked around and noticed something not that common; the local seniors were using their smartphones seamlessly. At first, I wasn't even aware how many elderly owned a smartphone. As I continued to observe them, they seemed to be glued to their smartphones; writing text messages, scrolling through their contacts, searching maps, playing games, listening to music etc., most of the activity on smartphones we all usually do, leaving out social media. I found it very cute and it really amazed me. I never actually payed attention to something like that before.

Older citizens are curious about technology, why wouldn't they be, and they are using smartphones. Sure there are some limited option of apps adjusted to seniors, but they are still actively engaging in modern day technology. I realized how everybody is embracing smart and social technology and the market is open to everyone.





For the design premise I wasn't only determined to understand Alzheimer's in its essence but also to understand the general elderly user behaviour. After I completed the research I created Personas of a potential and typical Appheimer user to gain even more insight into their average daily life and as well to define the possible scenarios the user might face while using the app.



#1 Profile of a Persona

Female, 72 years old

Work: Retired Nurse

Family: Widow, Three Children, Five Grandchildren

Location: Zagreb, Croatia

Character: Optimistic, Caring, Assertive, Mood swings

Blazenka is a retired nurse enjoying her family time spent with her grandchildren. Last year she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Blazenka is aware how fast Alzheimer's disease can progress.  She lives with her oldest daughter and her husband and two grandchildren. Her two other children live in the same city and are an amazing support as well. But she still wants to be able as much control of her daily life as she can and to delay the co-dependence for as long as possible. Her focus is on her grandchildren, cooking for her entire family and to continue the work in her garden.

Goals / Needs:

  • Staying independent for as long as possible

  • Easy access to the app (no login required)

  • Simple use

  • Learning something new

Technology Challenges Paula faces:

  • Remembering passwords

  • Technology appears complicated

  • Sharing private information

  • Endless options of devices

#2 Profile of a Persona

Male, 68 years old

Work: Retired Geography Professor

Family: Married, Two Children, Three Grandchildren

Location: Munich, Germany

Character: Curious, Mood swings, Introvert

Phillip was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 6 months ago. The diagnose took him by surprise as no one in his family suffered from Alzheimer's. In his youth he was a passionate traveller. One one of his trips he met his wife of 40 years. Despite the circumstances, Phillipp tries to stay active and goes for long walks with his wife and their dog. Reading and taking quizzes is still one of his favorite hobbies, he says it keeps the mind longer alert, despite the circumstances. For his last birthday, his children gifted him with an smartphone and his grandchildren had all the fun teaching him everything there is to know.

Goals / Needs:

  • Managing my daily routine more effectively

  • Setting everyday mini goals and accomplishing them

  • Feeling safe

  • Being comfortable with my device

Technology Challenges Phillipp faces:

  • Sharing private information

  • Remembering passwords

  • Constant change and slower learning

  • Visual, auditory and motor problems


Color Psychology and Design

Before I introduce you to the user interface and explain the solutions I implemented, I made an astonishing discovery: In the first month when I started re-designing Appheimer,  I went with blue as a color preference. Blue appeared as a safe choice, being trusting and calming (since AD patients have often mood swings). Into the design process I started feeling sleepy. Yes, sleepy! At the beginning I brushed it of as being too immersed into the design and from time to time tired. It didn't get better. So I asked myself, what kind of emotions would I want for the user to experience when they use the app. Productive, motivated and optimistic were the key elements. It brought me back to how I used to study color psychology when I was a fashion design student and everything I learned about it.

Going by product design, blue is one of the most commonly used colors but the product should be recognizable, especially in a sea of apps and for a senior user who has limited knowledge on smartphones or trouble with eyesight.

Yellow is a stimulating color which is used in activity areas to increase brain wave activity. Stimulating colors are good for Alzheimer’s patients as they can trigger memories and cognitive function. In Western cultures, yellow is associated with happiness, cheeriness, optimism, warmth (as the color of sunlight), joy, and hope, as well as caution and cowardice. All important elements for transmitting the emotions for Appheimer users (minus cowardice of course). But if I am being strict by cultural heritage, then in France yellow signifies jealously, betrayal, weakness, and contradiction. With that last information in mind I still opted for yellow since the pros made more valid points than the cons (France) and I didn't have only one country in mind, but all of them.


Rapid Prototyping

I considered many options and made a conscious, well- thought-out decision to keep the design and functions inside the final prototype as simple as possible so the user can focus on getting the job done.

#1 Prototype - was designed at the Hackathon event. I just dived straight into the design process since I only had 72 Hours to design something. I also didn't sleep at all (not a good idea) which prompt me to lose some time on semi important details.

#2 Prototype - I revisited the initial idea and started an extensive research on this topic and who I am actually designing for, why and what. The same reasons initiated this case study and made all the difference.

#3 Prototype -  I spent more time on the user interface and made an interesting discovery which led me to re-study the psychology of colors and it helped me to optimize the UX. I also consulted my mentor regarding some minor details, but still important enough to tweak them. This third prototype came just before the final prototype you are seeing now in this case study.



Appheimer Prototype


Functions and features provide the following:

  • Dual application

  • Personable & intuitive user interface

  • Quick sign up

  • No password required

  • Adding new tasks & appointments

  • Completing tasks

  • Displaying locations for appointments

  • Emergency button



Designing a more personable and intuitive user interface

Through-out the entire user interface I added consistent swiping gestures (back and forth) between the tab bar so users won’t have to reach to the top of the UI. Only when settting the time for a new task I added push gestures - top to bottom for setting time and bottom to top (coming back) when setting the time is finished.


Sign Up.gif


After downloading the application only few steps are required to get the app running.

Step 1 - Sign Up

  • The User is required to add his Full Name, Email & Mobile Number.

By remembering the input data the user has already filled in (in case something goes wrong), the user doesn’t need to re-enter all the information again.

Step 2 - Caregiver (secondary user):                                                                                                                                                                       

  • Adding caregiver's Full Name, Email & Mobile Number. At this point the user can choose to add multiple caregivers.

After the caregiver gets a confirmation email they can download the app and have access to monitoring daily tasks and scheduling up appointments. They will not have access to logging in tasks, since only the AD User can login their tasks. 

Last Step - Personal Greeting

  • Since saving the entered data, every time the user opens Appheimer, he is being personally greeted. The reveal is uplifting and can be effective in building up motivation.

A welcome page directs the user’s focus to the welcome message, while simultaneously orienting them to the product. I didn't add this momentum for the caregivers since their main role will be to react quickly, you'll see later why.



Helping the user to prioritize their daily activities 

In the beginning I struggled how to create a simple, easy to use user interface and what features to include and exclude since the app on the surface has a typical daily planner appeal. Iterating and asking the right questions early on, helped me to prioritize and find the right features.





The basic functionality of the app is built around the users ability to create the list of tasks which can be saved for the particular time and marked complete. I wanted the app to be highly focused and present for each day.

Each task is placed by priority. To make matters even more easier, I opted for a Tab Bar with only three navigation options: Emergency, Tasks and Calendar. If the user wants to preview future events, he can tap on the calendar button in the tab bar. 



Add a New Task.gif


Reducing the knowledge needed to complete an objective 



Checking In (Tasks).gif


Adding relevant notifications reminds the user of important things like their daily medication intake and enhances their productivity. 

The user experience for completing tasks is based on motivational productivity and is designed for simple interactions.



Integrating caregivers into the app

The emergency button is the heart of Appheimer. It allows the user and caregiver(s) to quickly react to dangerous situations. People with Alzheimer's and dementia can easily become confused or disoriented; wandering away, forgetting where they’re going while driving or disregard traffic laws, they may become easily upset or suspicious of those around them, they may also fall victim to scammers who target vulnerable seniors.

For integrating the emergency (E) button, a scenario I often had in my mind:                                             

A person with Alzheimer's goes alone to, let's say a doctor's appointment. In the middle of it he gets disoriented and forgets where he headed to and why. He picks up his phone and reacts accordingly to the following scenarios:

  • Scenario A: He calls the first person who comes to his mind, but has trouble explaining where he is or where he was heading to.

  • Scenario B: If he (hopefully) acknowledged Appheimer as his trusting companion, he opens the app, sees his tasks and appointments in one go, but he still struggles what to do with the information. He spots the Emergency button, taps on it, confirms the following action and immediately his caregiver(s) is alerted via text message and email with the precise information of his location distance.




Step 1 - Select the Emergency icon in the tab bar. 

Step 2 - A pop up window with a message will appear to confirm the action. At this point the user can choose to Cancel or Activate the Emergency Button. If he chooses the later, step 3 appears.

Step 3 - The pop window dissolves another message informing the user that his caregiver(s) have been informed aboout his current location.

Last Step - Dismissing the pop up window with executed action to return to the window prior.




View from the Caregivers phone

Step 1 - Immediately after the user has activated the Emergency button, the caregiver receives a notification on his phone, informing him of the AD users current location and distance - pressuming the caregiver allowed acces to his location.

Step 2 - After the caregiver opens the notification a map appears (in this prototype I used Apple Maps) with the exact location and distance of the AD user.

The caregiver is now well informed and he can call his loved one directly or pick him up.

Emergency Caregiver.gif

Wireframes & Sketches



Do Not Ask Me to Remember

Do not ask me to remember,
Don’t try to make me understand,
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept,
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
Love me ’til my life is done.
— Owen Darnell

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness month!

If you would like to raise awareness, join the conversation on Twitter with #EndAlz.

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