The 3rd Annual Caring for the Caregiver Hack, which took place November 4 and 5 in Richmond, VA, challenged college students to advance the health and improve the lives of family caregivers by creating technological tools such as apps, devices for the home, wearables, or interactive web experiences through the spirit of friendly competition.
Hosted by VirginiaNavigator’s Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving, students from seven Virginia-based higher-education institutions formed multi-disciplinary teams of 5-6 participants per school that were under the leadership of a faculty coach. Additionally, each team was paired with a family caregiver – helping students better understand the challenges and struggles caregivers face. Teams from College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Lynchburg College, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech participated in the Hack, working over a 25 ½ -hour period to create realistic and usable apps or products designed to positively impact caregiver health.
The team representing Lynchburg College was awarded the competition’s $5,000 Grand Prize, for “Visible Me”, an app that enables caregivers to log their self-care activities in order to redeem points. These points nourish a virtual garden, or care for a virtual pet, which is symbolic of the caregiver’s own wellness. By taking care of themselves holistically and nourishing their body, caregivers will allow their garden to flourish, just as their own health will through tracking their self-care progress via the app.
Additional teams and technologies developed at the Hack event include:
- Virginia Commonwealth University (2nd place and $1,000 cash prize): “Booga”, a social media app that uses a proactive “smart” virtual companion to combat loneliness and isolation – supporting the family caregiver by putting tangible tools at their fingertips to help them stay connected and problem-solve.
- James Madison University (3rd place and $500 cash prize): “Storybook”, a social media app that allows caregivers to embrace their journey, connect with other caregivers in the “Storybook” community, share their day-to-day emotions; and finally, when they are no longer the caregiver, produce a printed book of their personal caregiving journey.
- George Mason University: “reashore”, an app designed to provide emotional and informational support by connecting the caregiver to people, solutions, and services through a network of different virtual rooms, “reashoring” them that they are not alone.
- University of Virginia: “Ask”, a caregiver-centric app that aims to improve caregiver well-being by increasing opportunities for moments of respite by taking the burden off the caregiver to ask for help and allowing them to post activities where volunteers choose helping task time slots.
- Virginia Tech: “Zinia”, an app and web platform that provides family caregivers assurance and peace of mind by linking them with verified “sharegivers” to enable the primary caregiver to take respite.
- William & Mary: “CareVoyance”, a mobile app that uses predictive modeling to understand the pattern of unexpected events that happen in a caregiver’s life, keeping them prepared for what is yet to come using algorithms based on that caregiver’s planning devices.
"Having been a judge at several Hackathons and business pitch competitions, I was skeptical that the 7 college teams could produce something in 24 hours that would be able to be commercialized,” said Lisa Winstel, Chief Operating Officer, Caregiver Action Network, and Hack Judge. “I was wrong! Several of the concepts presented have great potential to become very useful tools and products in the market to help family caregivers stay healthy. I think VirginiaNavigator and its Lindsay Institute's use of family caregivers matched up with teams probably had a lot to do with the utility and viability of the team’s products."