Here’s an exchange that frequently comes up between me and an overwhelmed family caregiver (CG):
Me: “You are doing such a fantastic job helping your mother out. She’s really lucky to have you be so involved. And, it sounds like she needs more help at home than you’re able to comfortably provide on your own. Have you considered hiring an in-home caregiver to come help out?”
CG: “How do I find someone reliable? How much does it cost?”
Me: “Umm….Let’s see if we can connect you with a social worker who can help you. You can also try calling the Family Caregiver Alliance. They should have resources on how to hire in-home help, and they may have some kind of registry of home care providers.”
Three weeks later:
Me: “Did you look into getting some help at home?”
CG: “Umm…I’m planning to, but I’ve been so busy…”
Six weeks later:
Me: “Did you look into getting some help at home?”
CG: “Umm…I have this list of agencies…”
And so it goes, with me continuing to encourage the beleaguered caregiver to get some help, and the caregiver struggling to address yet another complex task as he or she scrambles to keep up with the challenges of caregiving.
The problem, of course, is that as the doctor, I’m pointing at
something to be done, but am not able to lay out concrete simple steps that a family caregiver can execute. Instead of relieving the caregiver’s stress, I’m giving him or her another complex problem to solve.
Family caregivers could certainly use some technology that simplifies the process of investigating and hiring in-home help.
The good news: some healthcare tech entrepreneurs are working on just this problem. As some may recall, last week when I briefly reviewed AARP’s top healthcare innovations for 50+, the startup I was most interested in was Carelinx, an online platform to help people find and manage paid caregivers.
Well, Carelinx was featured at the Aging 2.0 event I attended last night, and after learning more about the concept, I still think this is a service that could meet an important need for families I work with.
(Full disclosure: Carelinx contacted me last week after I mentioned them on GeriTech.org and I recently lunched with CEO Sherwin Sheik, who was interested in my experience as a geriatrician. We have no current or planned financial ties. He did strike me as very nice and has personally experienced the challenge of trying to hire in-home help for a sister with MS and an uncle with ALS.)
Why? Because Carelinx reminds me of Airbnb, a service that I have found genuinely super helpful and an example of how Internet platforms can
1) make a complicated search task much easier, and
2) facilitate an individual-to-individual transaction.
Like Airbnb, Carelinx provides a user-friendly platform that facilitates searching for what one needs. Users can easily look through a roster of individuals proposing caregiving services, and filter based on criteria such as gender, years of experience, credentials, and types of past caregiving experience. If you choose to hire someone, the platform manages the scheduling, payments, taxes, and also insurance and bonding. (Confession: I’m not really sure what the bonding means, but sounds reassuring.)
An additional feature I found appealing is that the platform supports video interviews with a prospective caregiver, which is a great tool for getting a sense of a person before moving towards an in-person meeting.
Last but not least, Carelinx claims that since they charge less as a middleman than traditional in-home care agencies do, families can obtain help for less, and the caregivers themselves get paid more. If this is true, this is a great benefit for families, who often face financial constraints, and for the caregivers themselves.
Does Carelinx actually work well for families? I can’t say, as I don’t know anyone who has hired a caregiver through the service.
Obviously families looking for an in-home caregiver should consider other options. For some, working with an established agency that provides coordinated geriatric care management services may be a better fit. There may also be other companies online that do a better job allowing families to find a suitable caregiver. (However, my brief Google search today didn’t turn up anything more promising: lots of agencies, lots of referral services, and Care.com, which does have a roster of available caregivers but doesn’t seem to provide the infrastructure for managing an ongoing client-caregiver arrangement.)
And it’s unclear to me how well an Internet company like Carelinx can screen and vet caregivers, although as Jim Sabin notes on the Over 65 Blog, that’s been an issue with traditional agencies as well.
Still, when I consider the options I have historically provided (I do love you Family Caregiver Alliance, but I worry that my families need something that feels easier than this process), I think Carelinx’s approach has terrific potential.
In many arenas, Internet platforms have replaced traditional middlemen (i.e.buying airline tickets, renting vacation homes, hiring freelancers). This has generally led to more transparency, better prices for consumers, improved customer service due to reviews and ratings, and an overall simplified experience.
Will this approach yield similar benefits in the realm of hiring an in-home caregiver? My guess is probably, but we’ll have to see.
In the meantime, I’m glad to hear of another option that I can propose to families.
PS: Health services providers: if you know someone who’s used Carelinx or a similar platform, I’d love to hear from you.