JMU graduates develop MyTime app to serve caregivers


 

SUMMARY: After winning $10,000 from a Hack event to develop technology that will improve the health of caregivers, a team of JMU graduates comes closer to finishing their app, MyTime.


By: Laura Mack '16
Creative Services Student Writer

Screencapture of My Time App

Last April, a team of three undergraduate students, two graduate students and a faculty member won the Caring for the Caregiver Hack-event sponsored by the Lindsay Institute, receiving $5,000 in the first round for having the winning idea and then $10,000 in the second round to actually develop their idea into a real product. Flash-forward one year: This team of engineering, social work and occupational therapy students have continued to work together on their ‘MyTime’ app beyond graduation, juggling their new entrepreneurial roles along with jobs and graduate school.

The Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving hosted its second Caring for the Caregiver Hack event last year, inviting student teams from Virginia universities to develop new technologies that would help caregivers stay healthy. “The premise for the hackathon event was that the caregiver population is drastically increasing with the baby boomer generation getting older, so you have a lot of people caring for their loved ones, especially in the Alzheimer’s arena,” Christie Briskey, a graduate student in occupational therapy, explained. “These caregivers are spending 24/7 giving care, and if it’s not 24/7, the time that they’re not hands-on is probably when they’re at a part-time job to still sustain them.” With so much time put into their roles caring for others, these people rarely have time for themselves and experience increasing amounts of stress that take a toll on their overall health.

Taking into account the lack of time caregivers have to practice self-care and reach out to others for support, the JMU team came up with the idea of an app for caregivers to log their time spent on themselves. Their app is called MyTime. “The app’s main goal is to help caregivers form a community to provide positive peer pressure to motivate them to remember to take time out of the day to keep themselves socially and emotionally healthy,” said Apgar. While the students originally had just 24-hours at the Hack-a-Thon to develop the concept behind MyTime, they are now working to flesh out the app’s various features to best fit caregivers’ needs and roll it out into the market. A key feature of the app is the social networking component. Caregivers log in to the app using Facebook so they can connect with friends who may also use MyTime and want to form a social support group within the app. “The caregiver would then enter activities into the app everyday showing that they are staying on track to being socially, emotionally and mentally healthy,” explained Apgar. “The app would send notifications telling caregivers if their friends could use a call and would try to get people to call you if you have not been logging in activities.”

Receiving the $10,000 grand prize to develop these features has provided many unique learning opportunities. The whole team has worked with a law firm to complete an operating agreement, among many other tasks. “Working in an inter-professional, collaborative team has been great,” said Briskey. “JMU has been able to scaffold and support a school project so that our team could take it out into the real world, creating such a rich learning experience.”

However, this project does not come without its own challenges. As the team works to finish the various aspects of the MyTime app, they struggle to find time to meet, especially now that most of them have left the JMU campus. During their Skype sessions every other week, the team experiences the benefits of working in a multidisciplinary team. Briskey explained that while Apgar works on the coding aspects of the app, social work and occupational therapy team members are able to provide feedback on how the features might best serve their audience. “He [Apgar] is on the ‘is this functional, or is this working’ side of it. We think, is the app going to be user friendly?” said Briskey. “It’s definitely challenging to work with people who don’t think like you, but that’s how we grow and become well-rounded - by working together.”

The team hopes to have a beta prototype of MyTime ready soon to test and receive feedback from users. As they continue to develop their project, Apgar and Briskey expressed excitement about the app’s approach to helping the ever-increasing number of caregivers. “I am most excited about trying to utilize peer pressure for positive effects on others,” said Apgar. “Utilizing this powerful aspect of human nature and pushing it towards a more positive effect has the potential to really help out a lot of people and I’m curious to see how it works.” Briskey noted that through this approach, the app could change the way caregivers approach their personal health and ultimately improve in their ability to give care. “This app could really help to bring awareness to the fact that by you going to this movie, you taking that leisure time - you will ultimately be able to provide better care to this person because you will be healthier psychologically, mentally, emotionally.”

Published: Friday, April 28, 2017

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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