by Julia Truelove, Innovation Fellow
In the constant conversation about meeting the needs of the aging population, one important issue is often left out of the equation - the physical and mental health of family caregivers. This past weekend, a diverse group of college students from across the Commonwealth gathered to try to address exactly that at the inaugural "Caring for the Caregiver Hack" hosted by the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving.
For the uninitiated, hacks or hackathons are usually software or technology focused development events focused on intense problem solving over a short period of time. The style of event, though exhausting, is an exciting venue for creative thinking. A practice no longer limited to tech giants like Yahoo and Facebook, organizations as diverse as the U.S. House of Representatives and Mastercard have hosted hackathons. In August 2014, the state of Virginia hosted its first ever datathon as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Technology Symposium. In recent years, hackathons hosted by health systems, universities, consumer and patient groups, insurers, and others have focused on health topics including epilepsy, veteran's health, Ebola, and rural medicine.
At the Caring for the Caregiver Hack, teams from the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Lynchburg College, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech were paired with a family caregiver to learn about their experience delivering care to their loved ones (disclosure: I was a co-captain of the UVA team). In Virginia, 1.4 million family caregivers provide an average of 20-40 hours per week of care, and this number will continue to grow to meet the needs of an aging population.* The teams then put their heads together and worked through the weekend to identify opportunities to impact and improve the lives of caregivers.