Pro Tip: You must take care of yourself first!
Pro Tip: You must take care of yourself first!

Being a full-time caregiver can be hazardous to your health! MyTime for Caregivers is a mobile app for iOS and Android that is designed to encourage caregivers to make their personal health a priority. According to one example from the Family Caregiver Alliance at the National Center on Caregiving:

If you are a caregiving spouse between the ages of 66 and 96 and are experiencing mental or emotional strain, you have a risk of dying that is 63 percent higher than that of people your age who are not caregivers.

Many caregivers find that being a member of a support group is critical to maintaining their health and sanity. However, most support groups are only able to meet a few times a month, and even then, it can be hard for a full-time caregiver to get time away from the person they are caring for. MyTime for Caregivers is a way to bring the support group to you. Leveraging Facebook, you can have members of your support network keep an eye on you and make sure that you are taking time out for yourself every day. In turn, you can keep an eye on others in your network and reach out to them if they need a hand.

How MyTime for Caregivers Started

JMU Team at 2nd Annual Caring for the Caregiver Hackathon
JMU Team at 2nd Annual Caring for the Caregiver Hackathon

MyTime for Caregivers began at the 2nd Annual Caring for the Caregiver Hack, in Richmond, VA, sponsored by the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving. A multi-disciplinary team of students and faculty from James Madison University with backgrounds in occupational therapy, social work, engineering, and information systems got together and spent 24 hours building a prototype of the app.

The process started when the team was paired with a caregiver mentor. Our mentor, Mary Margaret, had recently lost her husband to Alzheimers disease, but prior to that had been his primary caregiver for nearly 10 years. Over the course of a day, it was the stories, experiences, and insights that Mary Margaret shared with the team that allowed them to design the app that won the judges over. Although deeply personal, and sometimes painful, Mary Margaret’s courage, and the sensitive but direct questioning of the team proved to be a winning collaboration.

Following the hackathon, the team continued to work on this project, resulting in their winning a $10,000 prize designed to be used as seed money to bring their app to market. As a result, the team has now formed a company, MyTime LLC, and has begun development of a fully functional version of the app, with release on the app stores targeted for spring 2017.