During the weekend long Hack event, hosted by the Lindsay Institute in March 2016, we were posed with a task. This task was to create a prototype for a technological app that could assist caregivers with their needs. We were assigned to a caregiver, Mary-Margaret, who discussed at length how regularly spending some time on herself helped her cope with the difficulties of caregiving. After some discussion, it became clear that encouraging caregivers to take time for themselves would be the central theme for our project. As we were developing the prototype, we knew “that a one-size-fits-all approach to assisting caregivers may not be useful because caregivers have vastly different needs” (Sörensen, Pinquart, & Duberstein, 2002). Keeping this in mind, we focused on a prototype that would take each caregiver’s individual needs into account, while providing them an opportunity to connect with other caregivers through a virtual platform. The idea for ‘My Time’ was born that weekend, and we have since been working on transforming our prototype into a product that can be used by the public.
Each user who decides to use the MyTime app will come with a unique story and have individual needs. The app will provide a space for caregivers to document their daily leisure activities and also encourage caregivers to be accountable in consistently spending time on themselves. This accountability will be established by a feature, which allows users to connect with other caregivers. Users will be able to see what activities their connections are engaging in and will also see how frequently their connections are documenting leisure time. If a connection does not document time in a few days, the user will be notified and encouraged to reach out and check up with that connection. The two aspects of documenting one’s time and connecting with other caregivers are the primary focus for the app because we believe that they are important and fit well with each other in a simple way, so not to overwhelm the user.
Caregiving is often demanding and stressful, and many caregivers require social support. It can be difficult for caregivers to allow themselves time away from their care recipient to enjoy an activity by themselves or with a friend. Understanding this, we are designing the app to emphasize that even five minutes of leisure time can be beneficial, even if it’s just to appreciate a view or to call a friend, perhaps a connection in the app who hasn’t recorded his or her leisure time in a few days.
Through user surveys and feedback, we imagine the app will evolve over time to cater to specific needs and preferences denoted by the caregivers. This might include tailored group settings or providing a space for journaling. We acknowledge that the MyTime app might not fit everyone’s needs when it comes to dealing with the complex burdens associated with caregiving, but it is our hope that it will help reduce stress and increase the quality of life for the caregiver’s who decide to try the app.
Sörensen, S., Pinquart, M., and Duberstein, P., (2002). How effective are interventions with caregivers? An updated meta-analysis. The Gerontologist, 42 (3): 356-372.
Written By Michalea Schnier