Richmond, VA — A diverse group of multidisciplinary college students from across the Commonwealth gathered to address the often overlooked issue of caregiver health and wellness at the 2017 “Caring for the Caregiver Intercollegiate Hack” hosted by VirginiaNavigator’s Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving.

According to a National Alliance for Caregiving Study, there are over 65 million family caregivers in the U.S. providing an average of 20-41 hours per week of care to their loved one – and this number will only continue to grow as the aging population grows.   “Family caregiving is truly the backbone of long-term care, making up more than 80% of care provided,” said Dr. Richard W. Lindsay, co-founder and namesake of the Lindsay Institute.   “The supply of family caregivers is unlikely to keep pace with future demand, making creation of tech solutions even more important to allow fewer caregivers to do more and to help care from a distance.”

These family caregivers are “often thrown into the situation without warning,” said Adrienne M. Johnson, executive director of VirginiaNavigator. “While caring for a loved one can be gratifying, they are likely to be juggling caregiving along with jobs, children, and a host of other responsibilities,” Johnson said.  The result of this juggling act is pervasive stress and a resulting health problems for many caregivers.

“When I was a caregiver, I was incredibly lucky.  I had lots of family around, fabulous support from the medical community, and many friends.  But, still, it was difficult,” said Eric Schneidewind, President of AARP and Hack Judge.  “In Virginia, just over a million family caregivers provide $11.8 billion in care a year.  That’s volunteerism on a heroic scale, yet many family caregivers don’t have the support they need.  Bringing the generations together is a great step toward finding solutions and I extend AARP’s thanks to the Lindsay Institute for designing such a creative challenge that yielded such useful results for family caregivers.”

The 3rd Annual Hack, which took place November 4 and 5 at Troutman Sanders LLP in downtown Richmond, challenged college students to advance the health and improve the lives of these family caregivers by creating technological tools such as apps, devices for the home, wearables, or interactive web experiences through the spirit of friendly competition.

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 esteemed panel of judges selected the grand prize, second place, and third place winners based on the technology’s originality, usability, feasibility, and how developed it was at the time of the presentation.

  • Gigi Amateau, Director of Grants and Research, Greater Richmond Age Wave Coalition
  • Marcia DuBois, Director of the Division for the Aging (VDA), Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services
  • Patrick Hurd, Attorney at Law, LeClairRyan
  • Eric Schneidewind, President, AARP Board of Directors
  • Lisa Winstel, Chief Operating Officer, Caregiver Action Network

Hack Judge, Patrick Hurd, Attorney at Law, LeClairRyan, stated, “what especially struck me was the manner in which the teams grasped the everyday challenges of the Caregiver in a very personal way and sought to use their respective knowledge and technical acumen to develop tools that not only may offer real help but that are feasible, marketable and scalable.  As counsel to a variety of healthcare innovators, I can state without hesitation that, based on the talent on display at the “Caring for the Caregiver Hack”, the future of healthcare technology is very, very bright.”

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.”

With the teams retaining ownership of their ideas, there was a surprise announced at the conclusion of the Hack.  “We are thrilled to add to the prize package of Grand Prize Winning Team, Lynchburg College, with the hope of helping the team take their product, Visible Me, to the next level,” Johnson said.  “Through a Geriatric Training and Education (GTE) grant administered by the Virginia Center on Aging, we will provide the team from Lynchburg College $5,000 in seed funding, 10 hours of donated business and legal counsel from LeClairRyan, and an all-expenses paid trip to UnitedHealthcare’s Innovation Center in D.C, giving the team valuable tools from UnitedHealthcare’s Innovation and Business Development leaders to pursue further development of their idea that came out of the weekend.”

Major sponsors of the 2017 Caring for the Caregiver Hack include: AARP, the Virginia Center on Aging at VCU (VCOA), Genworth, and UnitedHealthcare.  Troutman Sanders served as the hosting sponsor for the event.

For more information on the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving or this Hack event, please visit Caregivinginnovations.org

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About The Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving
The Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving is an initiative of VirginiaNavigator, a statewide public/private partnership non-profit that helps Virginia’s seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, caregivers and families find vital information and community programs so they can live with independence, dignity and hope. The goal of the Lindsay Institute is to improve the health of caregivers—with the number of Virginians over 65 doubling by the year 2030 to 1.8 million and there already being over 1 million caregivers across the state providing 88% of all eldercare—the Institute and it’s esteemed Advisory Council are working together to keep caregivers from neglecting their own health while they care for a loved one. For more information or to partner, please visit Caregivinginnovations.org

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