Sidekick School: TakeCare (now Jointly) weeknotes #2
Posted on 15th May 2012 by Asi Sharabi -
[co-written with Nikki (design lead) and Ian(technology lead)]
We’re now just over 4 weeks into the CarersUK-Sidekick School project so we thought it’s a good time for an update. In the past few weeks we focused on user research. As suspected, it is hugely challenging to find 'typical' instances of caring. This is due to the fact that there are so many variables that come into play (as we outlined in our first weeknotes). We now know that creating a product that will answer all of carers needs is practically impossible. We have to make some decisions.
Don’t call me a carer
One really interesting theme that emerged from talking to people caring for a loved one while working full time is the fact that none of them considered or identified themselves as carers. This is due to myriad of reasons but predominantly the resistance (one would argue a denial) to label oneself as a carer. No matter how much disruptive to their everyday lives, “I’m just looking after mum”, “this is what I signed for when I got married”, “this is just part of life” where quite common reactions. Additionally, the reluctance to accept oneself as carer was even more common where some form of formal/professional care was in place. The main implication for us is for customer development, comms and marketing - how to market a product designed for working carers who don’t identify themselves as such? We are looking more into this and made a decision to treat caring as a verb rather as a title - something that you do, not something you are. The first thing we did when we realised that people don't identify themselves as carers was to change the codename of this project from TakeCare to 'Jointly' to reflect our focus on caring coordination.
What (working) carers need/want?
The fact that 1 in 6 of working carers end up leaving work because they cannot keep juggling between these two demanding worlds. When we tried to understand the reasons it is wonder that this figure isn’t higher.
- Lack of awareness and support at work
While pretty much every one of us will find him/herself looking after a loved one at some stage (most probably caring an elderly parent), there is still lack of employers’ awareness and support. Working carers tend to ‘hide’ the fact that they juggle work and care, and take sick leave as a default.
- Lack of support outside of work
We’re starting to understand what CarersUK mean by the social care time-bomb. Social care seriously lacks the awareness, policy and resource to support working carers even though they save over 100 billion(!) pounds in providing care for their family and friends. Caring can take its toll on your finances, your health and your career and your social life. Carers can fall out of paid work and many rely on low-level benefits, forcing them into poverty.
Making caring a bit easier by making it a lot more organised
In order to have a starting point from which we could make assumptions, ask questions and develop hypothesis for testing we talked in-depth with lots of people who care for a loved one while juggling a full-time job. Some interesting and 'fuzzier' themes began to emerge from these conversations:
- how the dynamics between family members impact on the circumstances of looking after a loved one and how it affects juggling work/care.
- the involvement of neighbours and friends in a wider circle of care
- gender-driven attitudes to divisions of labour
- the varying number of formal care givers involved and the impact this has on the caring experience
- the impact of the relationship and consistency of interaction (if any) with formal care giving individuals
We are currently sticking to our focus on ‘circles of caring’, i.e. looking at caring as a group activity and therefore as a communicative and emotional context. In a recent survey by Carers UK, 77% of working carers reported that they receive some kind of help, support from relatives, friends or neighbours was the most common form reported. Very rarely does one individual acts as a sole caregiver while working full time - this is admittedly an impossible situation. We found that sometimes being completely on your own is a less a lack of circle and more a uneven division of responsibility that contributes to the sense of having no help at all.
Our hypothesis is that still that where a group of people involved, co-ordination of care through better communication can make a big difference to the stressful life of working/caring.
Based on everything we had heard we invented some circle-personas. We chose to illustrate 3 different scenarios:
The first looked at the very hands on 'heavy end' caring duties, e.g. feeding, dressing, maintaining personal hygiene.
The second looked at the lighter end of caring duties e.g. emotional support, picking up shopping etc.
The third looked at a crisis situation whereby someone finds themselves in a situation of caring overnight due to something unexpected and often traumatic like an accident injury or sudden illness.
These have helped us more clearly define and visualise what we mean by terms like 'circle of care' and 'caring duties' and they give us a useful reference point for conversations with external parties as well as among ourselves.
Next - we’re starting to build something. We aim to have a working MVP in 6 weeks and start validate our hypotheses with a working prototype as soon as possible.
To be continued...