Maintaining the ability to prepare meals independently in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is of paramount importance to the individuals themselves and to their caregivers. Beyond being necessary to feed oneself, meal preparation supports self-esteem and maintenance of social roles. However, numerous difficulties in completing tasks and inherent safety concerns, such as burns and fire hazards, make this a high-risk activity for individuals with cognitive deficits. Home-monitoring technologies have great potential to facilitate efficient task completion and the adoption of safe behaviors while cooking. Furthermore, simple technology usage by persons with AD has been shown to increase independence in daily living and postpone institutionalization by up to 8 months. However, to date, technologies to support cooking in AD have nearly exclusively focused on limiting or prohibiting engagement in meal preparation, such as the use of a timer that cuts the stove’s power off.
Dr. Nathalie Bier and colleagues will produce a voice-based assistive kitchen technology for people with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition of subtle memory loss that often leads to Alzheimer’s. The results of this study will shed new light on how the progression of Alzheimer’s impacts an individual’s ability to complete daily tasks. They will also identify a cost-effective technology that can be adapted over time for individuals who progress from MCI to the more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. Such adaptability could better help people with dementia, remain independent — both delaying their admission to a health care facility and reducing the overall impact on the caregiver.