Friday, April 12, 2013

How Technology is Transforming Caregiving

Caregiving Corner:

With more people living longer, effective caregiving requires new thinking about how we care for those we love.  Boston-based Making Care Easier (MCE) is dedicated to helping caregiving communities get the answers and solutions they need to ensure quality care for their parents, friends, and neighbors.

Here, writer Linnea Walsh speaks with Making Care Easier Founder and CEO Mary Jane Favazza and Founders Julie and Renee Fry to discuss challenges caregivers face, and benefits of MCE’s innovative solutions to better meet the needs of caregivers.

Q: What do caregivers face in being able to care for their parents and other loved ones?

JF:  More families are taking on greater caregiving responsibilities, and are often doing so, while spread out in multiple locations. The ever changing field of medicine is also enabling patients to live longer, while health care costs have been rising. Federal policy will at some point need to address entitlement reforms to ensure future solvency.

Q. Caregiving in and of itself creates challenges for family members.  Many people may not fully understand the high costs involved. Describe some.

MJF: Families in these caregiving situations spend surprisingly large amounts of money annually on caregiving, including both cash outlays and the economic impact on their lives of doing the caregiving work itself:
  • Working caregivers lose more than $659,000 over a lifetime from lost wages made up of ($567,000), retirement contributions ($67,000) and social security benefits ($25,000).  (MetLife, 2010)
  • Primary caregivers are spending over $8,800 per year on out-of-pocket expenses, excluding the cost of facility care (Genworth, 2010)
  • 63% Of primary caregivers reported lost income – an average of 23% of household income (Genworth, 2010)
  • 36% Of secondary caregivers contributed an average of $2,600 per person for out-of-pocket expenses (Genworth, 2010)
  • 1/3 of caregivers reported a direct negative consequence to their own careers as a result of caregiving responsibilities (Genworth, 2010)

Q.  How does Making Care Easier work to address the complex challenges of caregivers?

MJF and JF: Making Care Easier (MCE) our goal is to improve both the way families care for their loved ones and the family’s experience during that care through action and our “recipes” for care.  This is no small mission, but a critical one.  As founders, my counterpart Julie Fry and I come from the healthcare world.  I served in leading roles at Health Dialog and Julie was the former head of marketing for the National Association of Home Care and Hospice (NAHC).  Renee Fry comes from the world of government and politics and software start-ups. 

MCE offers family members and professional care providers a one-stop platform for families to coordinate care, find and buy products and services, share information and take action. 

Q:   Take us through a typical caregiving situation and how MCE helps caregivers cope.

JF:  When your mother is recovering from a serious stroke and/or your father’s dementia is worsening, MCE helps connect you to the resources you need.

RF: MCE saves time, provides actionable, condition-specific information and helps families share the burden of care. Our solutions help families coordinate care and find and purchase the right products and services for the right situation at the right time.  MCE's unique approach provides tools, including a soon to be launched mobile tool, that can be used by everyone on the patient’s care team, no matter how far away they are, to ensure active caregiving.

MJF: MCE is a game changer as MCE’s applications are married with MCE’s proprietary analytics that provide a tailored pathway for each caregiving situation resulting in regular use and a trusted relationship, both key drivers of meaningful usefulness for the user and monetization opportunities for MCE.

Q.  What are some of the ways caregiving has changed over the years?

JF: While technology is starting to address some of the needs of caregivers, no “recipe” for care exists.  If your father has a stroke, it is the first time for your family, but it is not the first time anyone has ever had a stroke.  Many stroke victims and their families have stories and experiences or “recipes” for care that can be shared.  The support that exists today is generally transactional in nature – geared to help families share information or find a nursing home, but this is designed and delivered episodically.   It lacks continuity of the relationship with the family and therefore misses critical information needed in evaluating the entire picture.  They seem to be available to answer any question someone might have without ever suggesting what the right question might be for the family’s specific situation.  While there is a lot of information out there and some tools to help people share information, there is a lack of support on how to take action toward the care and the process of that care.

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