There are 2.8 million informal caregivers in Australia providing over $1bn of unpaid care every week. Informal caregiving is the unpaid backbone of the health and community services industry.
However, there is little support available for people who selflessly provide so much love, time and attention to others. With an ageing population it is crucial that we decrease the complexity, uncertainty and administrative burden that accompanies the provision of informal care in Australia.
Focusing on ‘sandwich carers’
The Customer Experience and Innovation team at UnitingCare QLD decided to focus their innovation efforts on a group of unpaid carers they called ‘Kates’. Kates are ‘sandwich carers’, providing care for both school-aged children and an ageing parent. This situation can be tumultuous, painful and emotional, putting a lot of strain on Kate and her relationships.
Preparing for death is difficult
As a general rule, we are devastatingly unprepared for death, even one that was expected. We don’t have difficult conversations with our loved ones until things reach a crisis point, we struggle to face mortality, we don’t understand the stages of the body and the mind’s deterioration, or all of the paperwork and administration that accompanies death.
UnitingCare QLD used a combination of agile, lean and human-centred design to develop the Lightkeeper app, as a companion and a guide to Kate through her caregiving journey.
By providing informal carers with an overview of the caring journey, allowing them to locate themselves within this journey, and some timely advice on the practical things they could be doing, they are enabled to make better decisions, earlier.
Death, like birth, follows a blueprint. While each is unique, there are signposts along the way, and a collective experience to draw from.
The importance of testing
It is estimated that over 90 per cent of new products released by organisations fail. The biggest reason for failure is not that a product isn’t compliant, or safe, or legally sound, or brand appropriate, or able to be delivered; it’s that the new product doesn’t address a market need.
UnitingCare QLD addressed this problem by testing the Lightkeeper app early and often with unbiased, everyday people.
Action and creation need to accompany contemplation; you can only learn so much by thinking, at some point (probably earlier than most of us think) you need to begin doing (and, crucially, getting feedback). If you’re ‘doing’ correctly, you should be building enough to test your most critical assumptions.
Lightkeeper has undergone four key stages of development to date, and it is by no means ‘finished’ yet. The design process is both ‘non-linear’ and ‘iterative’ as UnitingCare QLD learns more about the ‘problem’.
The team are now testing Version 0.1 at and will use feedback from this process to refine the product.
A cultural shift
Culturally, Lightkeeper represents a completely different way of working for UnitingCare QLD, using technology to help shift the organisation towards a truly customer-first innovation culture. What this product does, is it aims to deeply empathise and understand the problem faced by Kates, and offer practical support to make decisions that are right for themselves and their loved ones, providing a helping hand to informal carers trying to navigate their world.
UnitingCare Queensland was a Finalist in the innovAGEING Enhancing Consumer Experience Award 2020.