Homeward Bound: Re-designing Methods of Communication Between Families

Homeward bound image for ISSUAishwarya Iyengar and Lorri Smyth

Homeward Bound  aims to enable improved communication, predominantly between an ageing population and the people who matter to them.

The design team gathered insights from older people highlighting that they did not share relevant information with their family or carers regarding their health needs and day to day wants and needs. Instead they have informal conversations about these subjects with their friends, who may or may not have a caring role in their life. The aim of the project is to engage these older people and stimulate them to communicate more with those who are most relevant to their care.

This begins with finding ways to prompt conversations about the future: do they have an Anticipatory Care Plans (ACPs) to help them think about their future social and medical care for example? The design team looked at methods of supporting communication at an early stage and considered how people share their thoughts, fears and habits with their family, carer or health professional before they need significant medical intervention. From these insights the project then examined how people can form better communication habits. The design team undertook a Service Design approach in order to develop these insights into a prototype outcome, My Life Book. The book can be shared between people going through life transitions and anyone they choose to include in the conversations which it elicits. User testing was carried out for every iteration of My Life Book, which allowed continued refinement of the prototype.

The prototype will now be carried forward by a member of the Homeward Bound Design team for a further six weeks of development, which will involve investigating the potential professional applications of My Life Book in a health and social care context.