Michelle Chaffee was already busy balancing her growing career with motherhood when her 58-year-old mother had a stroke. In a single moment she suddenly had a third full-time role: caregiver.
Michelle’s story isn’t uncommon. More than 42 million Americans are responsible for the care of a loved one, and it’s not always a middle-aged woman taking care of her aging parents. Caregivers are also husbands whose wives are diagnosed with cancer, parents whose children have diabetes, and mothers caring for adult children with developmental disorders.
The Impact of Caregiving
Just as there are millions more caregivers than you likely expected, there’s also a lot more involved in caregiving than pill management and helping around the house. Depending on the level of care needed, caregivers can spend 20+ hours a week on medical and personal care, grocery shopping and food preparation, household and financial management, running errands, and keeping family members in the loop. Caregivers also often find themselves grappling with complicated insurance rules, making difficult healthcare decisions, and sorting through legal and financial issues.
With so much on their plates already, it should come as no surprise that caregivers are either distracted at work or have to take time off. Eighty percent of caregivers say their caregiving responsibilities impact work productivity, costing corporations $45 billion per year. Caregivers are also more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic illness, and other health issues.
Connected Caregiving by alska
Michelle Chaffee felt overwhelmed when she became a caregiver on top of being a mother and a full-time employee. Even with over 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry, the new and unique requirements of caregiving put her back at square one. She knew there had to be a better way to stay organized and keep her family up-to-date on health information and schedules, which led her to create the alska caregiver technology platform.
“Caregiving is unpredictable and can carry on for years,” says Michelle. “So while it’s nice for companies to provide additional PTO or flexible hours, caregivers need a resource to help them manage their caregiving responsibilities long-term. Leveraging my own experience as a caregiver along with my healthcare background, I set out to develop a technology platform to help other caregivers become more organized, easily access the resources they need, and prepare for all the surprises that arise in this role.
“The Connected Caregiving platform (powered by my company, alska, which means “love” in Swedish) has empowered caregivers of all types and ages: parents of children with disabilities, adult children with aging parents, and those caring for spouses or siblings with disabilities. The technology allows them to securely store all their important documents, like vital medical information and insurance details, and keep family in the loop by inviting them to the platform and engaging them with the interactive calendar.
“We later added virtual education webinars and support groups, which have been incredibly valuable and successful. Caregivers are able to seek support from people in similar situations without having to find the time to attend in-person meetings. They can hear from expert advisors such as financial planners and eldercare law attorneys for insights on how to manage issues often faced by caregivers. And when they need more personal help, caregivers also have unlimited email access to alska’s care advocates.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with alska. While there are other caregiver support platforms and products in the market, there was nothing addressing all the issues I faced over and over again, and nothing built for the day-to-day of caregiving. Knowing exactly how challenging the job is first-hand, I’m grateful for the ability to provide support for other caregivers.”
Care Companions by Papa
Andrew Parker, Founder & CEO of Papa, was also struggling to help out his grandfather while working full-time. Although he wasn’t the primary caregiver, Andrew and his family wanted to help his grandparents around the house so they could maintain their independence. He decided to hire a college student to help out, which led to the creation of his rapidly growing business.
"I created Papa to support my own grandfather, who we called Papa,” says Andrew. “My family and I recognized how loneliness was negatively affecting him in such a huge way. He needed help, but he didn’t need home care. We found that there was really nothing to support that area between ‘I’m completely fine’ and ‘I’m sick in bed.’ Finding our first companion provider for him opened our eyes to the possibility of supporting other older adults across the country. Loneliness is a disease, and by pairing two generations — older and younger — we are able to positively improve the lives of older adults and their adult children who care for them."
With Care Companions by Papa, caregivers can schedule a Papa Pal to spend time with their loved one, help with household chores, drive them to doctors’ appointments, and more. Often, the Papa Pals form strong relationships with the older adults they visit, becoming an extension of their family. Not only does this provide companionship for the older adult, but it also takes a load off the caregiver’s shoulders, giving them a much needed break to take care of themselves.
Support Working Caregivers
Caregiving is such a personal experience, but with an overflowing plate of responsibilities, caregivers can’t help but let their distractions bleed into the workday. Even if employers aren’t aware of any employees doubling as caregivers, situations can change overnight, and people of all races, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds can be affected.
By thoughtfully designing services based on their own personal needs and experiences, Michelle and Andrew are not only able to provide access to valuable tools for caregivers, but also educate us and open our eyes to all the challenges of this role. New Benefits is excited to partner with these two incredibly passionate people in the caregiver support space and provide a unique solution to clients.
Learn more about Connected Caregiving powered by alska and Care Companions by Papa on NewBenefits.com, or talk to one of our benefits pros by emailing NewSales@NewBenefits.com. Download a recording of our webinar with Michelle Chaffee for insights on how caregiving impacts the workplace, and how Connected Caregiving makes a difference.