In our last post on Caregiving 101, we examined factors driving the need for caregivers, do-er versus project manager personas, and the health implications. Despite spending the most time delivering care for loved ones, caregivers are the least supported individuals on the care team.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, care recipients and caregivers faced a unique set of challenges:
The inability for family members to visit their loved ones during the pandemic led to a lack of information that increased stress.
Caregivers need to be physically present for their loved ones in various care settings – family caregivers are not visitors but essential care team partners.
Many families experienced heightened anxiety levels about getting vaccinated before visiting their loved ones for fear of infecting frail or elderly individuals with COVID. Some care receivers refuse to take a vaccine, thus further complicating how people can safely interact with loved ones.
More than ever, people are demanding increased information and resources about their health care. In particular, care receivers and their loved ones are increasingly willing to have frank conversations about potential outcomes of their disease trajectory so they can make more informed decisions.
The caregiving industry has seen an increase in virtual care and a shift to in-home care over the past year, facilitated by the adoption of digital-first tools. "There is an increased awareness that hospitals and facilities are not safe for people who do not need to be there. People want to be at home," notes Torrie Fields, CEO of Votive Health.
The rising need for caregivers and their intensifying responsibilities present an opportunity set for digital innovation. Let's take a closer look at how health technology is transforming the caregiver experience.
Assistance with daily activities
Caregivers provide support with daily tasks such as meal preparation, grocery deliveries, grooming and personal hygiene, and mobility. However, even the most dedicated caregivers need to rest and recharge.
Honor's Care Pros—experienced, thoroughly screened, professional caregivers—become an extension of the caregiver by being available 24/7 to provide personalized care and handle any urgent situations that may arise.
Naborforce connects older adults to "Nabors" for social engagement and on-demand support for errands, transportation, and in-home support. "Nabors" are compassionate community members such as retirees, empty nesters, and students who are carefully selected and motivated by a desire to aid older adults in their communities.
Homethrive aids caregivers through expert guidance and services to improve daily living, including prescriptions, grocery, and personal care product deliveries. "Our high-tech, high-touch model, combining the experience and expertise of our Care Guides with our Dari by Homethrive digital coaching platform, delivers personalized and curated eldercare support, navigation, resources, and community," shared Dave Jacobs and David Greenberg, Co-Founders and Managing Partners of Homethrive. "Whether it's finding the right home care provider, tools for managing the stress and anxiety that can come from caregiving, or just trying to better understand the journey ahead, Homethrive can help."
Remote monitoring of care recipient's health & safety
Devices for remote monitoring of care receivers' nutrition, health, medication management, and safety (e.g., fall detection) decrease caregiver burden by saving time and fostering better health outcomes in the immediate future. Long term, the gathered data could generate insights to provide predictive solutions.
CarePredict developed an intelligent wearable for older adults and uses AI to learn and follow their daily habits to ensure safety and health. The wearable tracks sleep patterns, activity level, eating habits, walking, and more. The sensors detect small changes that may precede serious risks like falls, malnutrition, and UTIs to enable early detection before an adverse event occurs.
Reemo Health's home management platform enables older adults to age in place while remotely monitoring their health and providing condition support. Their platform includes a personalized smartwatch, two-way communications system, access to 24/7 health support, data insights, and alerts. Among the encouraging outcomes Reemo has achieved, notable examples include Reemo reaching 70% daily engagement from in-home health monitoring of Medicare members and reducing enrollment costs for high-risk Medicare members by 21%.
SensorsCall built a well-being monitor called CareAlert that detects changes in the home environment like motion and temperature after taking a week to learn an individual's patterns. After a personal incident where the founder and his wife struggled to reach her aging mother, the idea for SensorsCall was conceived. The information collected via CareAlert is synthesized and displayed for family members or caregivers to see. If any anomalies are detected, the mobile app sends an alert to the end-user.
Care coordination and planning
Navigating the healthcare ecosystem can be daunting, especially during the difficult transitional period into caregiving. Thankfully, more digital solutions are available to help caregivers coordinate care plans and benefits across providers and payors.
Cariloop provides expert Care Coaches so caregivers can spend less time figuring out how to take care of loved ones and more time being present with them. Caregivers will receive guidance on everything from understanding and finding the appropriate medical insurance to researching assisted living and nursing facilities.
Votive Health facilitates better payer-provider integration through value based arrangements, eliminating suffering by eliminating unnecessary and unwanted services and ensuring care teams have the tools they need to deliver complex care at home for people with serious illnesses. Torrie Fields, CEO of Votive Health, shares that “the demand for home-based care has skyrocketed and underscored caregivers’ critical role. The caregiver is not only an extension of the patient but an extension of the care team. Caregivers serve as the bridge between clinicians and patients when facing a serious illness.”
Social well-being of older adults
Even before the pandemic, older adults suffered from loneliness and social isolation. The emergence of technology to facilitate social connectivity between caregivers and older adults has played a critical role in preserving mental and physical health.
Papa matches older adults and families with Papa Pals, who provide companionship and support for daily activities. Andrew Parker, CEO and founder of Papa, saw that the need for companionship was more significant than ever amidst COVID. "Older adults' general needs didn't change that much. However, they did need additional help accessing groceries, prescriptions, technology, and of course, companionship. Papa has always provided companionship. During the pandemic, we quickly enhanced our platform to provide from-a-distance social support, while also continuing our on-the-ground help with these critical daily tasks.”
Avanlee Care provides a mobile app for family caregivers to manage an aging family member's health. "We're not only providing a tech solution that's improving people's quality of life via medication reminders, but also the quality of life at home because care is being driven by people they love," shared Avanlee Christine, CEO of Avanlee Care. "While care coordination is a driving factor, our user base – predominantly adult children – kept emphasizing relationships with aging parents and grandparents."
Televeda reduces older adults’ social isolation by empowering recreational centers to engage older adults through live, virtual-hybrid social activities. Televeda's easy-to-use technology enables live streaming, customizable events calendars, and online member engagement. The company has facilitated 100K+ social interactions, 25+ live classes per week, and 200+ activity vendors on their platform to date.
Caregiver quality of life
The median duration of caregiving is five years – even if the care recipient does not have cancer or dementia. While employers are adding more benefits like leave policies to accommodate caregivers better, there remains a high level of turnover due to caregiving responsibilities, and caregiver burnout is all too real.
Companies like TCARE focus on caring for the caregiver. Separate from cleaning and cooking, tasks like bathing your father-in-law for the first time or changing your aunt's catheter are situations you cannot unsee. The culmination of these experiences plays a significant role in caregiver burnout. TCARE built a database of community resources across over 55,000 zip codes for caregivers to participate in tech-assisted therapy sessions.
Carewell is a leading advocate for caregivers and an online supplier of home health products. The company is family-owned and family-run by co-founders Bianca Padilla and Jonathan Magolnick. After going through the firsthand experience of insufficient resources on care methods and products, Bianca and Jonathan took matters into their own hands. As a result, the company provides personalized service to independent caregivers about affordable, suitable quality home health goods to meet their care recipient's needs.
Caregiving for dementia patients can be incredibly challenging. From unclear diagnosis to the myriad of daily decisions to make to the lifelong nature of the informal role, dementia caregiving is challenging. The Helm developed a text-based peer coaching solution to inform care decisions via lived caregiver experiences and share caregiver stories for emotional identification to address this issue.
Future evolution of caregiving
Over the next several years, the digital revolution will continue shaping caregivers' experiences. For one, we'll likely see a consolidation of various caregiving services into centralized, integrated platforms. This would allow a more streamlined experience and less administrative hassle in juggling multiple solutions related to the above categories. In addition, as health technology takes a more significant foothold in the care journey, there will be a transition in the purchasing landscape from traditional, in-person services to more efficient, digitally enabled solutions. Furthermore, collecting and aggregating data to better assess people functionally and mentally will enable a more personalized determination of the right resources to deliver to caregivers and care recipients.
Keeping caregivers healthy is essential to providing care. While the lion's share of caregivers voluntarily steps into this role, they face numerous challenges in today's environment and struggle to do it alone. Digital health plays a powerful role in enabling caregivers to find the right tools, experts, and communities to provide care for their loved ones. As members of the HealthTech Grind, let's continue to apply our ideas, resources, and energy to improve the future of caregiving.
About the Author
Dana Sun is a Senior Associate at OCA Ventures, a Chicago-based venture capital firm that invests in Seed and Series A enterprise tech, fintech, and healthcare companies across the US. At OCA, Dana focuses on investments in digital health. In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, juggling, and improv acting.
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