Caregiving Connection Platform
2020 Senior Project
My senior project aims to address caregiver burnout and support both caregivers and care recipients in their emotional health and relationships.
Kinsight is a digital platform for caregivers and care recipients to connect with themselves and with each other in meaningful ways, and with the relevant resources for their unique journey.
For the full process with weekly updates, visit my senior project blog.
Duration: 4 months (Spring 2020)
Tools: Sketch, Invision, Principle, Premiere Pro
Practice gratitude and recognize your feelings and situation with daily check-ins.
Remind and honour yourself for the effort and love that you have put into caregiving by creating affirmations.
Identify and articulate your thoughts and feelings by creating time capsules.
View the progress of your journey by setting and receiving look back emails for your capsule. Share these cherished memories with your loved ones.
Stay connected and updated with each other by joining or creating a community.
Ensure the right people get the relevant information using topic chats.
Get access to curated resources relevant to your situation through a quick onboarding process.
Know where your resources are coming from, and save them for later.
Whether you are relaxing at home or caught in a whirlwind of tasks, access Kinsight anywhere, using any device.
Caring for a loved one can be one of the most precious experiences in our lives; however, it can also be an extremely demanding position to find ourselves in. The above quote from one of my research participants perfectly exemplifies this.
There are currently over 40 million unpaid family caregivers in America. The role of a caregiver is a major and taxing responsibility for many people, and is often overlooked in our society. The average caregiver spends at least 20 hours a week providing care, while balancing other aspects of their lives (work, family, etc). The demand for care will only continue to increase as our population ages.
It's easy to become so focused on looking after others that we forget to care for ourselves. Many caregivers suffer from caregiver burnout, which occurs when they are physically, emotionally, and mentally overwhelmed and exhausted by their duties. This can become so severe that they lose both the will and ability to not only properly care for their loved ones, but also themselves.
Jane and Patricia are an example of a common caregiver and care recipient relationship.
In my first semester of senior year, I was focused on senior care for my senior project. From October 2019 until shelter-in-place in March 2020, I volunteered weekly at a senior center. I also visited 3 different senior care homes and spoke with professionals in the space. I sent out surveys and conducted interviews. I wanted to foster close relationships and step into the world of elderly care and caregiving, instead of watch from outside.
In January, I pivoted to focusing on caregiving. I had been speaking to many caregivers, and upon entering their world, I discovered the tremendous potential and need to create something valuable and meaningful in this space.
In February, my volunteer coordinator connected me with an amazing free program for caregivers called "Caring for the Caregiver". We met for 2 hour long classes over 5 weeks, and I learned a ton about different topics, from communication to behaviour management to fall prevention. In these sessions, I met both caregivers and professionals in this space. I listened to their stories and experiences, as well as their advice and recommended resources.
Photos of the places I've been.
I began by understanding how the system of in-home caregiving works and who is involved.
Because different caregivers have different levels of involvement for the care, each type of caregiver has different concerns; thus, I mapped out the roles and relationships to better understand the interactions between each role. I also listed out all the potential duties a caregiver may have that I learned from Caring for the Caregiver - the instructor told us each role exists as a profession, yet it's not uncommon for family caregivers to be juggling all of them at once!
From speaking to caregivers and care recipients, I learned their unique problems as well as their shared problems.
In this overlapping space of shared problems, I created two categories to further highlight the specific in the personal and interpersonal contexts:
From all the research I gathered, I came up with the following opportunity statements:
With these questions in mind, I set forth designing! I structured my prototyping and iterating into three phases, each guided with specific research questions.
I began by sketching out two ideas: a time capsule and a memory chat app. The time capsule idea was actually a wonderful suggestion from one of the seniors I volunteer with, who is in a mutual caregiving relationship with her mother. For this first phase, I wanted to know if people would actually find value in these ideas, and why. I user tested these concepts with 9 people, and my key findings are below.
From this feedback, I decided to move forward with a digital app - a caregiving connection platform with the following 3 main functions:
• Daily check-ins - This is actually an exercise taught in a session of Caring for the Caregiver called the "Two Minute Morning", that I digitized. The exercise consists of 3 questions, and the goal is to nurture gratitude, awareness, and focus, and has been proven to improve emotional wellbeing.
• Affirmations - Many of the caregivers I spoke with experienced guilt, shame and inadequecy with themselves and their abilities. These affirmations would serve as reminders and encouragement for their hard work.
• Time capsules - I decided to make this a feature within the Reflection section, as people really valued the positive emotional impact of being able to store and retrieve memories.
Like a "Slack for caregiving", people can create or join communities to keep connected and updated with each other. Use "topic" chats to make sure the right people get the right information, because different people in a caregiving ecosystem have different duties and needs (from the relationship diagrams I created).
3. Social feed
A feed to share moments, thoughts, experiences and resources to everyone in a community.
For phase 2, I wanted to ensure the interface and the functions are clear and intuitive to use, and that people still see value after experiencing the flows first hand. I conducted 9 user tests with caregivers and care recipients, and used my learnings to guide my iterations:
Daily check-ins + affirmations are grounding, can combat guilt and shame
Distinguish the functionality between daily check-ins and combine the two flows for a smoother experience
Time capsules would help people see and accept the progression of their loved ones and their situation
People appreciated that different chat topics are focused and lightweight, unlike online forums
It's one place to keep everyone updated, no need to constantly repeat oneself
People value that they can find and connect with others in a similar situation
Social feed → Resources
Social feed Resources - people found the feed redundant and really saw value in the resources aspect of the feed, so I decided to dedicate this section solely to resources
Resource onboarding flow - reduce number of choices for interests to create a smoother flow. Also add “who are you caring for?” question - every relationship dynamic is different (e.g. caring for a parent v.s. a spouse v.s. a sibling)
People want transparency, especially because so many scams target seniors - where are these resources from? Added a hover feature for the articles that provide details of the source
For phase 3, I user tested with 4 participants and also took the feedback I received in class critique to move toward my final version. Alongside iterating the features and flows, I worked on branding and visual design.
New starting screen - dashboard
One of the biggest changes I made was creating a dashboard. Previously, the starting screen of Kinsight was the Reflection section. I wanted the user to first take a place to step back from all the chaos and see their situation and feelings from a broader perspective. However, I received this very valuable piece of feedback from one of my testers:
What did she mean by this? Caregivers, especially those under extreme stress, may not want to reflect as their first action. In fact, their stress levels can worsen if they can't get to the information they need the most. Sometimes the number one thing a user needs may be communication (“who’s picking up her prescription?”), or a specific resource ("can my elderly mother travel during a pandemic?"). People want to access what they need in a task-oriented manner, as easily and quickly as possible without distractions or barriers.
Jude gave me that wonderful metaphor of navigating a building, and suggested a dashboard-like screen with all options of the app available. I thought this was a great idea and created this simple screen, which users will see when they open the app:
I also created, tested, and iterated two new flows:
Reflection onboarding demo
To make sure people understand each feature in the Reflection section, I chose to use a hands-on, guided demo for people to discover as they explore the platform for the first time. I wanted to ensure the demo was easy to follow and not tedious, and my testers were able to follow easily. For iterations, I made some visual adjustments to increase readability.
Roll a Delight
This is a small but delightful feature I implemented pretty late in the project.
Throughout my conversations with caregivers and care recipients, one common theme that came up was how valuable humour and lightheartedness is in the journey. No matter how difficult things are, being able to not take things so seriously all the time is crucial to emotional wellbeing, as shown in what my research participants said:
When a user clicks the Roll a Delight button, it will give them funny, cute, and/or lighthearted content. I wasn't sure if this would be appropriate, but from testing and feedback, people loved this feature. (One participant told me, "I think that's brilliant! I can take a break, catch a breath. I need to escape for a second, stop thinking about [my situation].") I originally had this feature only in the resources section, but my testers wanted it on every section of the platform! I decided to include it in the side navigation, so it is accessible while unobtrusive. This was a surprising learning for me - it really is true that puppies and kittens are always appreciated!
I wanted my product to be warm and comforting for people to use. My early visual designs ranged from being too monochromatic, to looking old-school Wordpress, to seeming like "it was made in the early 2000's" (as a tester put it). Over the course of iterating, I adjusted the colours, contrast, and even increased the font size. My goal was to make the interface more accessible, especially for those with poorer vision, lower tech literacy, and higher stress levels.
For the product name, I decided on "Kinsight" - a combination of:
"Kin" - a sense of family, connection and support; and
"Insight" - the reflection, understanding, and awareness my product aims to bring.
Early branding explorations
I also created illustrations for certain moments of use, to add delight and warmth for the user.
With both my project and my time at CCA coming to an end, I think that this is one of (if not the most) meaningful projects I've worked on. Caregiving is a world that I previously had very little knowledge of, and discovered to be very rich. The stories I've heard and the people I've met (and even befriended) are truly inspiring, and I am extremely thankful to have the chance to learn from them. Despite a pandemic occuring halfway through this project, I was able to stay in touch with these people and continue working with them. From these virtual conversations, I believe the pandemic is actually further exposing the problems I am trying to address, which gave me more motivation and reason to work on this.
Caregiving is a space I would love to continue working in. If Kinsight were to actually come alive, I would create only one or two features at most, and focus on making them as valuable as possible for my users.