Ideal Development is designing and developing an app for elder care, for the consortium iCareCoops. The main audience for the project is European citizens and their future needs. Read more about our thoughts about the project and the app design here.

ICareCoops focuses on bridging the gap between the care professionals, the elders and volunteers who have decided to help taking care of elders. The app makes it possible to assign a volunteer to different kind of tasks regarding the elder care. In this way, the elder’s daily life can be more functional and pleasant while the staff can take care of health and personal hygiene tasks instead. The main purpose of iCareCoops is to make a good and simple workflow which would allow volunteers and healthcare professionals to work cooperate effectively. The app makes the whole communication between the elder, the nursing staff, and the volunteers easier.

In Europe, there are many different kinds of elderly care institutions which usually are divided into private and public nursing homes. But in every country, we see the same problems; elderly care is expensive and many elders struggle to afford it. We believe that Cooperatives are the future for elderly care. In Cooperatives the elderly typically share community and expenses for nursing staff and extra help. Cooperatives are gaining popularity all over the Europe, however they need more help from the volunteers in the area where they help and give the elderly people the attention they much need.

In Denmark, elder Cooperatives are not common yet, even though Denmark has a long tradition of cooperatives in areas like groceries, apartments and farming. In some countries, such as Holland, Finland, and France, elderly cooperatives are getting more popular. Cooperatives fit well into the thoughts about sharing economy. Why pay all the expenses for a handicap car you only use once a week? Why not share it and the expenses?

The number of volunteers in the elder care in Denmark is, however, steadily increasing. In the nursing houses, the staff take care of all the health-related work while the volunteers help with the social tasks. The volunteers make a big difference in improving the quality of the elder’s everyday life. The most important thing is that the volunteer’s work is a supplement to the nursing staff and not a replacement. The volunteers spend some spare time helping others and getting involved in the community.

In Denmark, 80% of the Danish municipality have plans to expand the number of volunteers, partly due to the downsizing of thousands of full-time jobs in the elderly care. Denmark has among the nursing staff recruited several volunteer coordinators who work exclusively with organizing volunteers to help in the elder care. The iCareCoops app creates a platform for the community of the volunteers, helping coordinating their work and tasks. The platform can be a forum where the volunteers can brainstorm and share ideas and experiences. The platform makes it possible to plan various social activities and events for the elder.

It is a known problem that the volunteers take on responsibility for some tasks that requires professional training. The iCareCoops app filters tasks making sure only the nursing staff takes care of tasks requiring formal training. Because of reductions in the staff and the higher documentation requirements, it can be difficult to find time for morning meetings, where the most relevant information will be shared with the volunteers, the elder and the nursing staff.

The iCareCoops app can help improving and simplifying the communication, making it more attractive and less cumbersome to be a volunteer. As a volunteer in the app, you are not getting asked about your working tasks, you are choosing them yourself. You can even plan your own time and when there is a particular need, you will be able to prioritize the tasks. The tasks in the app are sorted into different categories, such as; Gardening, paperwork, shopping, technology and transportation.

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We have discussed volunteering with an elder care volunteer, Lene. Lene has been volunteering in the eldercare in Denmark for more than 10 years. She spends 3-4 hour every week in a nursing home. Lene has given us a greater understanding and insight into the needs of the volunteers and their requirements to an platform like iCare Coops.

Why have you chosen to be a volunteer?

“I want to do something for the elderly people. As a volunteer, I have been visiting five different elders. I liked them all. The driving force has been the elder’s joy when I came to visit them. I am retired, so it is not hard to fit the work as volunteer into my everyday life. It is always a matter of priority. I can imagine some of the volunteers have a busy lifestyle and therefore it can be difficult to fit in.”

What do you do as a volunteer?

“I decide if I would like to take a walk with my elder friend, read a story, sing a song or just talk. The tasks depend on what the elder are capable of. In the summer we often sit in the garden and enjoy the weather. We always drink afternoon coffee either in the common dining room or in the private rooms.”

How do you communicate?

“The communication between the volunteers and the elder are very much about what the individual elder are able to talk about. The conversations are mostly fun and sometimes creates situations where we both laugh. If there is a photo album in the room, it’s fun to see the photos together. There’s always a lot of funny stories. I usually bring gossip magazines, so we can talk about all the beautiful dresses, children, animals and whatever happened that week.”

“I do not interact much with the staff, as they tend to be busy”

“Some volunteer coordinators plan meeting for the volunteers, where we can drink coffee and talk about our experiences in the nursing home. Unfortunately, these meetings are not so common anymore. It can be hard to lose an elder that you have been visiting for a while. It’s good to be able to talk to other volunteers who have similar experiences. It is difficult to plan tasks and discuss with the other volunteers. I hope we in the future will find a way to improve the communication at the nursing home”

There is no doubt, the volunteers have become an integrated part of the elder care in Denmark. The volunteers are performing much needed tasks the health professionals doesn’t have time to do. this sharing of tasks requires coordination and this is where iCareCoops fit in; iCareCoops will help with the daily coordination and could play an important role in everyday life for the future of cooperatives.