Archives for January 2018

CareZare – LHS Student Creates Caregiving App

Family Caregiving

There’s an app for that!

 

 

LEXINGTON HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR LAUNCHES APP TO REDUCE STRESS AND ISOLATION OF CAREGIVING FOR FAMILY MEMBERS

By Jane Whitehead

While most of his peers worry about college application deadlines, admissions and rejections, LHS senior Logan Wells, 17, has a different focus. He has a business to develop, following the launch in November 2017 of CareZare, an app he and family members created to streamline family caregiving, now downloadable from the App Store and Google Play.

AN APP FOR THE HOME TEAM

Eric, Logan and Hallie Wells

When Logan’s grandmother, known in the family as “Nannie,” was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, the Wells family mobilized to provide the help she needed to stay safely in her own home. After taking the hard decision to remove her driver’s licence, Logan’s parents Hallie and Eric, with his aunt Lisa Wells, organized a roster of companions so that she could still go shopping and see friends, and not miss the three-mile daily walks that she loved.

The Wells family faced a challenge familiar to growing numbers of Americans. A joint study published in 2015 by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimated that 39.8 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult relative, with carers spending an average of 24.4 hours a week on caregiving, often with negative effects on their own health, as well as on their professional and personal lives.

As Nannie’s condition advanced, and her need for more constant and more specialized care increased, Logan saw the dramatic impact on his mother, who with his aunt was the main care coordinator. “Her free time was gone – she was always contacting caregivers, getting updates from them, texting, making sure everyone was on the same page,” he said.

“When we first started,” said Hallie, who works full time for Lexington Public Schools, “there were pieces of paper all over Nannie’s house: the chore chart on the fridge, the calendar on the kitchen counter, the medication check-off.”

Logan saw that juggling the different record-keeping systems and dealing with multiple emails, texts and phone calls among the three professional and six family caregivers was a major source of stress. “You see the toll it takes on your parents,” he said. “It’s something that’s hard to ignore, something you want to improve.”

Not one to turn away from other people’s struggles – he’s also involved with teen suicide prevention efforts through Lexington Youth and Family Services – Logan started teaching himself programming from online tutorials so he could develop an app that would allow all the caregivers to coordinate and share information.

With help from his father, Eric, whose background is in technology, though not in programming, and input from his twin brother Devin and older sister Delaney, Logan produced a prototype app that was field-tested by his mother and aunt and tweaked according to their feedback.

Prompted by Delaney, the family developed their own terms for the different people involved in caregiving. The person receiving care is the “CareStar,” round whom everyone else revolves. The “CareCaptain” is the administrator or coordinator, “CareGivers” are family members, friends or hired care providers invited to join the “CareTeam,” that includes everyone involved, including the person being cared for.

FIELDWORK

Over two years, Logan developed the app to allow members of the CareTeam to post four different kinds of information: heads up alerts, calendar notifications, tasks, and daily journal entries. Now, when caregivers start their shift, said Hallie, “they look at the app and read the recent journal entries and heads up alerts, so if there’s anything significant, they can deal with that.”

A typical journal entry – completed by every member of the CareTeam at the end of a shift – may include observations of Nannie’s mood, activities like having coffee or browsing catalogs, any chores or tasks completed, and maybe a general assessment. “Lots of laughs, great day,” concluded one recent note.

“When we receive these journal entries at the end of the day,” said Hallie, “it’s such a beautiful snapshot – it doesn’t always go well, but all of this is data.” The journal record is a way of tracking and meeting changes in Nannie’s needs. When carers began to note that she was not getting dressed by 2:00 p.m. or that she was starting to resist taking showers, “that was a cue to change to someone skilled in dementia care,” said Hallie.

A recent heads up alert via text from the carer on duty notified the CareTeam that Nannie’s washing machine had started spurting water all over the floor, mid-cycle. Hallie could respond immediately, contact a local plumber, let the next carer know to expect his visit, and share his assessment with everyone. “In that that moment we can try to problem solve and have a whole cast of characters get that information in a timely way,” she said.

Lisa Wells manages all her mother’s health care appointments – “her eye doctor, her dentist, the neurologist, primary care, lab tests, all of that,” – and she has found the app’s calendar feature invaluable. The information that used to be in her head, or on a piece of scrap paper, waiting to be transferred to the paper calendar, can now be immediately shared with the CareTeam. And when Nannie’s medications change, Lisa can post information about the new prescription once, in one place, rather than calling or emailing five different people.

The CareZare App makes it easy to coordinate care for family members and the entire caregiving team.

SCALING UP

Seeing how well the app performed in meeting their immediate family needs, Logan and Eric started to think bigger. “We started to think – we can build this so it’s useful to other people,” said Eric. “We felt there were opportunities to really promote team-based care at the family level,” he said, as well as focusing on the role of the CareCaptain, and giving that person maximum support.

As self-taught programmers, said Eric, both he and Logan recognized their limitations, and they engaged another father and son team, Bruce and Bradley Stuart, of Arizona-based Software Studio, as technology partners. They worked closely together to ensure the app’s functionality and security and the ability to scale it as more people start to use it.

Logan and Eric also sought input from professionals in senior care, running test groups at Brookhaven in Lexington, with workers and residents, and meeting families facing different care-related challenges, such as those with adult children with developmental issues. “Gaining those new perspectives and applying them to the app was invaluable,” said Logan.

To drive revenue from the app, said Eric, they considered different options – advertising, a one-off download fee, or a subscription model – and Logan favored the subscription model. Currently, CareZare is available for a 30-day free trial, with a monthly fee thereafter of $9.95 for each CareStar. “We’ll try it,” said Logan, and if we find it doesn’t work, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

GAP YEAR CHALLENGE

“There’s so much to learn in doing a start-up like this,” said Eric. “There’s the caregiving side, then there’s how to build a business, how to build the product, how to keep focus, the marketing side – it’s such great fertile ground for learning.” Although it goes against the grain in a college-fixated town like Lexington, Eric and Hallie completely support Logan’s decision to spend a year focusing on CareZare after he graduates from LHS later this year.

“It’s definitely scary” not to be heading off to college immediately like most of his peers, said Logan, but at the same time it’s exciting to build on what he’s already accomplished – taking an idea from concept to marketable product, and learning a host of skills on the way, from programming to time-management.

He’s also keen to roll out new enhancements, including simplifying the design of the user interface, enabling the calendar to display Google and Apple calendars in the app, and – prompted by the recent snap of severe weather – providing updated weather information and warnings for caregivers.

With a background in hi-tech marketing, Logan’s aunt Lisa Wells is a valuable source of development ideas. She recently installed a Blink wireless home security camera system in her mother’s house, to monitor the night hours, and is encouraging Logan to incorporate notifications from that system into the app.

For now, though, she’s hoping that more people learn about the app and benefit from it. “It has been a godsend, honestly, from the communication point of view,” she said. “Before, you could spend half your day just calling people and trying to figure things out. I think my dad is up in heaven looking down, very proud of his grandson!”

 

Online Resources for Family Caregivers

American Association of Retired People (AARP): https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/

The organizations below are listed on the website of the National Alliance for Caregiving: www.caregiving.org

Eldercare Locator

www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx
The service links those who need assistance with state and local area agencies on aging and community-based organizations that serve older adults and their caregivers.

Next Step in Care
www.nextstepincare.org

Provides easy-to-use guides to help family caregivers and health care providers plan and implement safe and smooth transitions for chronically or seriously ill patients.

Lotsa Helping Hands
www.lotsahelpinghands.com
 A free caregiving coordination web service that provides a private, group calendar where tasks for which a caregiver needs assistance can be posted.

Caring.com
www.caring.com
Expert-reviewed content includes advice from a team of more than 50 leaders in geriatric medicine, law, finance, housing, and other key areas of healthcare and eldercare.

Financial Steps for Caregivers
WISER (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement)
Being a caregiver can affect both your short-term and long-term financial security, including your own retirement. For more information on planning for a secure retirement, please visit

www.wiserwomen.org.

Family Caregiver Alliance
caregiver.org/node/3831
A central source of information on caregiving and long-term care issues for policy makers, service providers, media, funders and family caregivers throughout the country.

Caregiver Action Network
www.caregiveraction.org/

Resources include a Peer Forum, a Story Sharing platform, the Family Caregiver Tool Box and more. CAN also provides support for rare disease caregivers at www.rarecaregivers.org

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2018 Minuteman Cane Award

Nominees are currently being sought for the 2018 Minuteman Cane Award. Do you know a person who is at least 80 years of age, a 15 year resident of Lexington, actively involved in the community and an inspiration to others (while exhibiting a creative approach to life through a choice of either a second career, a hobby or volunteerism)?
If so, consider nominating them for this award. Nomination forms are available at the Community Center, the Town Clerk’s Office in Town Hall; and in Lexington Center at the following locations: Michelson’s Shoe Store, Theatre Pharmacy, Wales Copy Center, and Cary Library. The form is also available on the Town website at: www.Lexingtonma.gov. This outstanding award is presented on Patriots’ Day after the Morning Parade during the ceremonies on the Battle Green.
Completed forms should be submitted to Minuteman Cane Committee, c/o Lexington Community Center, 39 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421 by NOON, Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

For more information, contact the Minuteman Cane Committee by calling Marie Hill at 781-760-9148.

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Is Lexington’s Future RENEWABLE?

 

Is Lexington’s Future

RENEWABLE?

By Mark Sandeen, Chair
Sustainable Lexington Committee

Lexington made remarkable progress towards achieving a renewable future in 2017. We brought our Hartwell Avenue solar facility online – and are now generating 45% of the Town’s municipal electricity demand from our rooftop and landfill projects. We launched a highly successful Community Choice program, which is now providing 100% renewable electricity for less money than our utility’s Basic Service offering to over 10,000 customers – saving Lexington residents about $1.6 million over the first 12 months of the program.

The Town approved two designs for 100% renewable energy schools that will be built to the highest standards for health, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and resilience. Hastings School and the Lexington Children’s Place are expected to generate more solar electricity onsite than they need to operate – from their rooftops and solar canopies in their parking lots.

These are extraordinarily hopeful signs for the Getting to Net Zero Emissions task force; whose 25-year goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Lexington’s residential, commercial, and municipal buildings and to achieve a transition to renewable energy sources for all of Lexington’s buildings. Our guiding principles have been four simple words – Report, Reduce, Produce, and Purchase.

Report – Our first step is to understand what types of buildings we have in Lexington and assess how those types of buildings perform from an energy use and emissions perspective.

Reduce – There are really only two ways to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We can use less energy by investing in energy efficiency or we can switch to using cleaner sources of energy.

Produce – The next step is maximizing the production of onsite renewable energy from our rooftops and parking lots.

Purchase – After reducing energy use and switching from burning fossil fuels onsite as much as possible, we will purchase renewable electricity to supply our energy demand.

Why is the task force focusing on our buildings? Lexington’s buildings generate 66% of our greenhouse gas emissions – 36% from the electricity used in our buildings and 30% from the use of oil and natural gas to heat our buildings.

We’ve hired Peregrine Energy Group to produce an energy and emissions baseline report for all of Lexington’s buildings. They have produced a fascinating report with lots of interesting results. Peregrine found that our residential buildings are responsible for 55% of our building emissions while commercial labs and offices are responsible for 34% of our emissions. The remaining 11% comes from our municipal buildings, retail spaces, non-profits, and health care facilities.

The chart above shows that most of our residential buildings were built in the ‘50s and ‘60s. During that time the average size of a new home was about 1,200 square feet. New homes today are averaging about 4,700 square feet or about 4 times the size of homes built between 1920 and 1980. Many Lexington residents are under the impression that we are tearing down existing homes at a furious pace – after all, it seems like you see a new teardown going on every time you drive around town. But the data shows that new construction is responsible for less than 1% of our building stock each year. What that means is that 25 years from now – we will mostly have the same buildings we have today.

These lessons also hold true for our commercial buildings. Most of our commercial buildings were built in the ‘50s thru the ‘80s. We are building very few new commercial buildings today. The simple takeaway is that we will have to figure out how to retrofit our existing buildings if we are going to be successful at reducing our emissions to zero.

Natural gas usage is up in Lexington. But that is offset by declines in heating oil usage as residential homeowners have been switching from heating oil to natural gas quite rapidly since 2008. Our electricity use has been declining about 1% a year for the past 7 years due primarily to the Mass Save program to encourage energy efficiency. [See chart below]

 

But perhaps the biggest story for our overall emissions has been the beneficial effect of closing our coal and oil power generators in New England. We started with a much cleaner electrical grid than the rest of the country and have now reduced our emissions an additional 30% over the past 20 years.

In Lexington we hope to accelerate that trend by leveraging our positive experience with our Community Choice program that was able to secure 100% renewable electricity for less than the cost of conventional electricity. Our Community Choice program is currently reducing Lexington’s emissions by 98 million pounds of CO2 per year. [See chart above] Now that we are able to provide 100% renewable energy at lower cost for our residents, we’d like to do the same thing for our commercial property owners.

A lot of people are amazed that this is possible. The simple fact is that renewable energy prices are dropping rapidly. Solar panel prices plunged by a shocking 26 percent in the last year — despite having already dropped 80 percent in the previous 10 years and 99 percent since the late 1970s. Wind’s story is almost as amazing. In October, we saw the lowest bids in the world for 1,000 MW of wind electricity at 4 cents per kWh – a 24 percent drop just from February. We are seeing similarly rapid declines in offshore wind prices.

The next series of charts provide a broad overview of our plan for Getting to Net Zero Emissions for all of our buildings. [Figure 1] The upper light blue line on this chart shows what we could expect for our buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions in a Business as Usual case. The light blue area shows the emissions reductions we can expect from the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that requires an additional 1% of renewable electricity per year. The dark blue area represents the emission reductions we can achieve by transitioning all of our buildings to 100% renewable electricity. We would reduce our emissions by 48% when we achieve that objective. We have high confidence that we’ll be able to achieve this as we expect the cost of renewable electricity to continue dropping over the next 25 years.

The light and dark green parts of the next chart [Figure 2] show we can reduce our emissions 34% by switching from oil and natural gas to heat our buildings, if we transition to using heat pumps powered by 100% renewable electricity. The cost and performance of heat pumps has made dramatic gains in the past 4 or 5 years. Heat pumps provide a strong economic incentive to switch from oil on energy savings alone. We will encourage the transition to heat pumps as older oil fired boilers reach the end of their useful life.

With natural gas prices currently at all-time lows, heating with natural gas will cost less than using a heat pump solution. One way to provide a cost effective solution for natural gas customers would be to combine energy efficiency improvements such as air sealing and insulation to reduce the building’s overall energy demand with the transition to a heat pump. Building owners would see a net overall reduction in their energy costs by combining an investment in energy efficiency and heat pumps. [Figure 3]

Interestingly, there is also an opportunity to tap into the $9.3 billion Massachusetts has allocated to repair natural gas pipelines. The idea is that rather than spending the money to repair natural gas pipelines – you could use less money to pay for the new equipment needed to transition from natural gas to heat pumps, from natural gas ranges to induction cooktops. We’ll be trying a pilot project in Lexington to see if that idea pencils out.

Estabrook School

Finally, we have already figured out how to build our new school buildings to be 100% renewable buildings while lowering our total cost of ownership. Our most recently constructed LexHab affordable homes were only 1 or 2% away from generating 100% of their own energy.  We’ve even seen a net zero energy retrofit completed in the Historic District! Net Zero construction is a growing trend in new construction. Net Zero buildings have been delivering dramatic increases in home valuations. We believe that over the next 10 years we’ll be able to adopt a net zero emissions building code for all new buildings in Lexington that will deliver the final 8% in emissions reductions needed to transition Lexington to a 100% renewable energy future. [Figure 4]

Our largest building owners in Lexington, like King Street Properties and Shire are committed to reducing their emissions and are already setting and beating aggressive goals to reduce their emissions. We will be working with them to support their efforts with programs such as the Commercial PACE program, which allows commercial property owners to access new sources for energy efficiency and renewable energy financing.

SHIRE Pharmaceuticals

King Street Properties – 115 Hartwell Avenue

 

In the near term, we are recommending that the Board of Selectmen take a leadership role by adopting the Sustainable Building Design policy, formalizing the goals for health, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy production, which have shown such great results during the Hastings and Lexington Children’s Place school design.

We would also suggest that the Town start buying 100% renewable electricity for its own municipal electricity demand. The Town of Lexington signed a 3-year agreement with our current electricity provider, which ends in December of 2018. This year would be an excellent time to complete the Town’s move to a 100% renewable electricity future.

A lot of folks ask – what about reducing emissions from our vehicles? While our buildings are responsible for 66% of our greenhouse emissions, our vehicles are certainly next on the chopping block at 23% of our total emissions. The good news is that if we can transition our buildings to 100% renewable electricity – we can do the same for our cars.

Battery prices are declining rapidly and are expected to continue their rapid decline with another 75% price reduction expected within the next 15 years. At the same time, the power to weight ratio of the batteries has been improving rapidly. Those advances have allowed Elon Musk to introduce an electric truck with 500 miles of range and Tesla’s new Roadster with 620 miles of range!

Both trends have lead to soaring sales of electric vehicles worldwide and in Lexington. There were 1 million electric vehicles on the road at the end of 2015, but it took only 18 months for the next million electric vehicle sales. The next million cars will be on the road by Patriot’s Day this year. Lexington is also leading the electric vehicle revolution in Massachusetts with 6.7 times the number of electric vehicles per capita compared to the Massachusetts average. We doubled the number of electric cars in Lexington last year, and hope to do that again this year with our Lex Drive Electric group discount program.

And that revolution is only just getting started. Navigant expects 37 million electric vehicles will be on the road by 2025. Yes, that is more than 10x growth in the next 7 years. And 2025 is when Bloomberg [See chart above] expects electric car sales to really accelerate! Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that the unsubsidized price of electric cars will fall to less than the price for internal combustion engine cars somewhere between 2025 and 2030.

Electric cars already cost far less to operate and maintain than gas vehicles. So when the upfront cost and the ongoing operating and maintenance cost are far less than a gas car – why would you buy a gas-powered vehicle? Especially when an electric car is just so darn fun to drive, has zero emissions when powered with renewable electricity and when you can get up to $7,500 in discounts from the Lex Drive Electric program?

So far we’ve been focusing on the benefit of reducing Lexington’s greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning our buildings and vehicles to 100% renewable energy, and with good reason. It is hard to overstate the importance of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions after watching the most extreme hurricanes and wildfires ever devastate Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and California, causing over $400 billion in damage.

But we should also consider that there are really important direct local health benefits from going 100% renewable. By transitioning both our buildings and cars to renewable energy we can eliminate much of the particulate matter air pollution that has dire immediate and local health effects. MIT determined that Massachusetts has the fifth highest premature mortality rate from the particulate matter air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels to heat our buildings. We have the 13th highest premature mortality rate from the air pollution caused by our vehicles. We could save over 3,100 lives each year in Massachusetts by eliminating the particulate matter emissions created by heating our buildings and driving our cars with fossil fuels.

Can Lexington transition to 100% renewable energy for our buildings and our vehicles? The answer is a resounding yes! The economics and the health benefits of renewable energy will not only lower our energy costs and improve our health, but will also provide a more livable climate for everyone. What are we waiting for?

The solar, wind, battery and electric car “miracles” have all gone mainstream. Building and running new renewable energy systems is now cheaper than just running exisiting coal and nuclear plants. China, India, France, the UK, and Norway have all announced they will phase out fossil fuel cars in the next decade or so. Even OPEC has quintupled their forecasts for electric cars. The clean energy revolution is now unstoppable. Are you onboard?


The Getting to Net Zero Emissions task force includes building owners, community leaders and subject matter experts representing residential, commercial and municipal interests:
Joe Pato, Lexington Board of Selectmen, former Chair
Jeanne Krieger, Former Chair, Lexington Board of Selectmen
Paul Lukez, Architect – Author, Suburban Transformations
Wendall Kalsow, Architect – Member, Lexington Historical Commission
Mike DiMinico, Sr. Director, King Street Properties
Melanie Waldron, VP, Boston Properties
Joseph Fulliero, Environmental Manager, Shire
Janet Terzano, Real Estate Agent, Barrett Sotheby’s
Alessandro Allessandrini – Chair, Lexington School Committee
Melisa Tintocalis – Lexington’s Economic Development Director
Lisa Fitzgibbons – Community Organizer, Mothers Out Front
Mark Sandeen – Chair, Sustainable Lexington Committee

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