On November 15, 2014, my life was turned upside down—but that was nothing compared to what my father was going through.
That day, he woke up from back surgery with terrifying hallucinations, and started showing signs of psychosis and paranoia that didn’t go away. Instead, it got worse. As he bounced back and forth between the hospital’s psychiatric unit and a physical rehabilitation facility, repeatedly calling police to say the nurses were plotting against him and trying to electrocute his bed, doctors theorized that going under anesthesia during surgery had triggered dementia related to Parkinson’s disease. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years prior, but the condition had mostly manifested in physical symptoms—tremors, stiffness, and the like—until that fateful surgery.
At the time of his back operation, Dad had a girlfriend, but before long, his symptoms drove her away. My only sibling, who lives in New Jersey, was due to give birth to her first child in a few days; needless to say, her hands were full. My dad’s only sibling is 10 years older than him and in poor health. So, that left me, and I had exactly zero experience caring for a person with dementia.
I felt at times like I was adrift in a wilderness. I constantly worried that my ignorance would lead to bad caregiving decisions, and I often spent the drive between Detroit (where I live) and Lansing (where he lives) in tears. Finally, after lots of Googling, phone calls, and trial and error, I found him competent, long-term residential care, first at home and then at an assisted living facility once home care became too expensive. All told, the process took just under a year, and although he’s doing much better now, it was one of the most distressing situations I’ve ever dealt with.
However, my situation is hardly unique, and I share my family’s tale of woe to illustrate the loneliness, uncertainty, and despair that many people caring for sick loved ones experience. Burnout and depression are endemic among people caring for ailing loved ones, and the healthcare system is labyrinthine, so a product like CarePRN—a new app created by a Detroit entrepreneur that helps families find and communicate with licensed caregivers—has the potential to be a godsend.
CarePRN is the brainchild of CEO Jason Wolfe-Greer, who is also a nurse. While on the job, he developed a hypothesis: It’s not the actual demands of caregiving that cause burnout, but rather the accompanying mental anguish. And if not handled properly, that anguish can quickly snowball and lead to a variety of negative outcomes.
“At work, I saw that all families need a break sometimes, even if the patient isn’t that sick,” Wolfe-Greer says.
He wanted to devise a tool for on-demand respite care that could lower family burnout and maybe even allow the patient to stay at home longer, improving his or her quality of life. So, in 2015, he brought his idea to TechTown’s medtech hackathon, where he met his two co-founders. Later, the team further developed the concept at a 10-week summer accelerator held at TechTown.
Although Wolfe-Greer conceived CarePRN as more of a short-term tool, it’s up to users if they want to use the app to find longer-term caregivers.
“In our minds, it’s a respite model, but it will probably evolve,” he says. “We’re focused on the niche of emergency situations or help needed once in a while. We’re not trying to compete with traditional home healthcare organizations.”
Describing CarePRN’s app as geolocation-based and “similar to the Uber concept,” Wolfe-Greer says the company screens licensed in-home care providers who want to be listed on the app, conducting background checks and interviews. (Caregivers don’t get full access to the app until they’ve passed background checks.)
Families can then look through provider profiles to see if there’s a potential match, or they can create what’s called a marketplace posting, where they describe the patient and duties that need to be performed. Then, every provider within a 30-mile radius gets an alert about the posting, and those interested can apply for the job. CarePRN allows in-app texting so families and providers can communicate, and the company also issues aftercare summaries and billing statements. In addition, families can rate their providers in the app.
Once a match is made and a caregiver is hired, he or she can clock in via the app once they are within 100 meters of the job location. The patient’s family then gets an alert that the provider has arrived. Families also get an alert if the caregiver leaves the job … Next Page »