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The New Normal - Survival Kit For Caregiving Heroes

A care package delivered every month with various items that align with the caregiver's progressive journey.

Photo of Kaye Han
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

This is designed for new caregivers and the friends/family that support them to navigate their new normal - a life with caregiving. It's a care package delivered once a month with items that align to the caregiver's needs during different stages of the journey. There are 4 categories of items in every box: Practical, Identity, Community, and Hilarious. These packages can be purchased as a subscription by the caregiver themselves, or as a gift from friends who want to help but don't know how.


During an OpenIDEO event, we worked directly with one of our team members who is currently a caregiver to identify some key needs. We created the following HMW:

How might we support caregivers to feel less isolated as they go through an identity transformation

The two insights are:

  1.  Being isolated by friends and society. A caregiver's experiences and struggles are a taboo topic that causes discomfort in social situations. Friends don't know how to act/react. In addition to this, their accomplishments as a caregiver are not valued professionally or in general by society. How do we normalise dementia so that caregivers don't feel alone without support?
  2. A new identity to discover and accept. The experience of caregiving varies, but for some, it can cause a radically fast change in their own identity. Their selfless service to their loved one can cause them to no longer recognize themselves. While they are deeply affected by caregiving, their identity isn't consumed by it, rather, it is transformed by it. 

There's a balance at play. The caregiver's life has now been deeply changed, but it is still normal to them because it's their new normal. So how do we ensure this identity transformation is a positive experience that does not isolate them from their friends and support network? 


A 'Survival Kit' is mailed to the caregiver once a month with new items each time that align with the different stages of a caregiver's journey. This box can be purchased by the caregiver themselves or by friends who want to give support but don't know how. 

'The New Normal - A Survival Kit For Caregiving Heroes' has four goals and components to it:

  1. Practical - provide practical support that is relevant to the caregiver's journey. A caregiver's needs in their 1st year are different compared to the 10th year. 
  2. Identity - provide tools that help a caregiver navigate their new life and new identity. 
  3. Community - provide a network that can support and relate to the caregiver's experiences. 
  4. Hilarious - provide an outlet to vent frustrations, see things in a new light, and to normalise dementia among friends/society. 


A high level of detail will be taken to the design of the entire brand and products inside the box. In order to build a community of caregivers that attracts new caregivers to join, people need to have visual affinity. Tongue-in-cheek humor will also be used to build a light-hearted atmosphere that can be a form of emotional support that all caregivers need. 

At the heart of this idea is the desire to bring delight to the caregiver's life at a time of great need. 

Example of Items:

1 - Welcome Box:

  • Practical - Advance Directives
  • Identity - Self-help Book
  • Community - Free account on the The New Normal Community Forum
  • Hilarious - Signal Flare (Use Only When In Dire Need of Laughter)

2 - Getting Started Box

  • Practical - Caregiving Finance Basics
  • Identity - Identity Workbook
  • Community - Meetup Recommendations
  • Hilarious - 'Today I Am...' Stickers

3 - I'm Getting The Hang of This Box

  • Practical - Caregiving Legal Basics
  • Identity - List of Recommended Therapists
  • Community - Caregiver Buddy System 
  • Hilarious - Caregiving Jokebook

The New Normal Website

Just like how 'Humans of New York' spotlights the amazing stories of people in that space, 'The New Normal' website seeks to do the same thing for caregivers in the space. When a caregiver receives a Survival Kit, they are immediately added to The New Normal network. 

It recognizes that each caregiver has a superpower that needs to be spotlighted and shared in this community. Some benefits to this are:

  • Creating community - putting faces to the amazing (but silent) work done by exceptional caregivers. 
  • Sharing hacks - each caregiver has their own tricks that help provide better care, this is a sharing network to proliferate these tricks. 
  • Facilitating connection - a repository for resources, meetups, forums, etc. 
  • Building identity - there are caregivers that are not empowered by this identity, this is a way to shine a positive light in this space. 

In each Survival Kit box will be a monthly spotlighted Caregiving Hero. This is a printed out story of what is shared online on The New Normal platform because we understand not all caregivers are into the internet. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We will speak to various caregivers at different stages of the journey to create a comprehensive list of all the types of items/support that they'd like. We will arrange these items in alignment with a general caregiver journey. We will then prototype the items in the first three boxes in the subscription service to see if they are useful.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We'd love feedback all the different items you'd believe are useful forms of support during a caregiver's journey. Practical tools such as information, resources, etc. Identity tools to help with self-discovery and therapy. Community tools to build a sense of belonging and connection. Hilarious tools to bring light-heartedness and fun to each day.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter

Tell us about your work experience:

We're a team that all met during an OpenIDEO workshop in Washington DC. We have a caregiver, designer, social worker, professor, etc.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Adam E

Love this idea, and the example gifts would be helpful in forging connections to the care-giving community and accompanying support and ideas. It's also essential to someone's 'survival' in this new role/identity to find new ways to connect with the loved one they may be caring for as well. Would you consider including simple tactile activities/toys/exercises to help the caregiver connect with their loved one with dementia? The feeling of losing the person you've known for years adds an incredible amount of stress, and can be brought on by losing those tried and true ways a caregiver may have used to interact and communicate with their loved one - any help to forge new connections would help make surviving each day a bit easier. Happy to share more.

Photo of Shannon McDermott

Hi Adam! I think that's a great idea. Do you have any resources I could check out to understand what those activities/toys/exercises look like (Asking for this challenge and as a caregiver)? Thanks!

Photo of Mansi Grover

Hi Shannon,

My idea involves the use of Origami as tactile toys, which would help in providing a creative outlet to the caregiver and appropriate messaging on the origami toys, to spread awareness about Dementia ( by giving those toys to people in their micro-environment). Would you be open to collaboration or is it too late?

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