Assisting caregivers of early-stage dementia patients


10 weeks

Research, Service Design, UX, Strategic Innovation

Scott Cowell, Tyler Gumb

McKinsey Digital

As a team, we contributed equally during research, idea generation, and product development phases. Additionally, I performed market research and financial planning for the MVP.

What is this project all about?

Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, and with less than 50% diagnosis rate, the real number is likely much higher. It not only affects the patients but also places an extraordinary burden on their caregivers. Caregiving for a loved one with dementia is a journey: while the onset of dementia may bring only gradual changes in behaviors and attitudes, the act of caregiving intensifies as dementia progresses, causing complex behaviors, loss of basic functions, and memory loss.

With progressive loss of functions, driving is the first ability a person with dementia loses. Ironically, transportation is still an essential need in their daily life, whether they want to run some errands, or go to a doctor’s appointment, or just want to meet friends.

Going out is crucial for a healthy mindset for dementia patients. But using the public transportation alone is not always a safe option. Often they need their caregivers to drive them. On the one hand, this reliance causes patients to lose their independence, and on the other hand, it puts strain on caregivers’ daily lives. It’s especially true when caregivers have multiple jobs and cannot drive them during the day. So we asked: how can we reduce the burden on caregivers by providing a transportation service catered to the needs of early-stage dementia patients?

We propose CAReS. It is an on-demand transportation service tailored to the needs of individuals with dementia. It allows caregivers to pre-book the same driver for future rides as familiarity plays a key role for dementia patients. It offers tracking, and, if needed, allows caregivers to have a video chat with their loved ones during the ride. The service acts as a helping hand to caregivers, and at the same time, extends a sense of independence to people in early stages of the condition.

Key Features

What does this service offer?

Partial loss of memory can sometimes create confusion, especially regarding where to go and how. Hence, door-to-door service is a key feature of CAReS.

To stay connected and for a peace of mind, caregivers have direct access to the car’s coordinates and can track the ride via GPS.

Additionally, if needed, they have the option to video-chat with their loved ones. We imagine this to be valuable if their loved one starts experiencing distress during the ride.

CAReS also offers a subscription service that assigns the same driver for multiple trips as a sense of familiarity is very important to many patients.

To provide a better experience, it is important that drivers have training to prepare them to help individuals with dementia and take appropriate actions in times of distress.

What would the CAReS experience be like?




  • Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide.[1]
  • Alzheimer’s (a form of dementia) alone accounts for over 18 billion hours per year of unpaid caregiving. Often it forces caregivers to work additional jobs, extend work hours, and even postpone retirement.[2]
  • In the US, more than 42% caregivers face this challenge alone, as they have little to no support network for assistance.[3]
  • Research conducted at Stanford found that 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the person with dementia they are caring for dies. [4]


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To synthesize our research findings and distill insights, we created personas and mapped out their needs. This helped us understand the pain points for both patients and their caregivers.


From our research, it was evident that transportation was one of the first needs for which early-stage dementia patients and their caregivers needed assistance. This revealed to us our opportunity.


How do we provide a transportation service tailored to the needs of early-stage dementia patients and their caregivers?

Market Research

Let’s look at the current landscape of transportation services available to dementia patients.

  • Public transit is the only option available for most people due to price considerations but it is essentially impossible for people with dementia to use as walking to and from bus stops alone is risky.
  • Paratransit service is publicly subsidized and hence cheap, but you have to schedule it well in advance. Also, it’s only available during working hours and you have to apply in person and be evaluated to be eligible.
  • Ride share services like Uber and Lyft are at a reasonable price point but they are not geared for people with dementia and the drivers are not prepared to handle their special needs.
  • Non-emergency medical transport is equipped for handling dementia patients but it is expensive, inconvenient and not for running errands or meeting friends.

There is an opportunity here for a convenient, reasonably priced service equipped to deal with the needs of and safety concerns specific to people with dementia.


We started designing our service, keeping Larry Keeley’s 10 types of Innovation in mind. This made us think about not only the service we wanted to create but also how it works and engages with the consumers.


Service Flow

Here is how a driver, a caregiver, and a patient engage with CAReS, and take the journey from registration to completing their first ride.

User Journey

Pitch Presentation


A few things I learned from this project are as follows.

  • I learned how to design a service that caters to a niche user group with special needs.
  • We explored different incentive models for drivers to participate in such a service that reach beyond the monetary compensation.
  • This project showed me how important the act of caregiving is in a person’s journey through a difficult condition. It was eye opening to see how hard caregivers work to make their loved ones happy, and I now have the utmost respect for caregivers.