CareDrop connects family caregivers with the resources they need

In the United States, 43.5 million family caregivers are caring for someone 50+ years of age, and 14.9 million are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. When Kathy Good’s husband Dave was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she used her background as a social worker to put together resources and a supportive committee…

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Team members of CareDrop and the Family Caregiver Center of Mercy go over the designs for the CareDrop Plus website. Photo credit: Jessalyn Holdcraft of The Iowa Startup Accelerator.

In the United States, 43.5 million family caregivers are caring for someone 50+ years of age, and 14.9 million are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

When Kathy Good’s husband Dave was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she used her background as a social worker to put together resources and a supportive committee to ease the difficulty of her new role as caregiver. Still, her life grew increasingly stressful as Dave’s condition deteriorated.

“I used to wonder, ‘What do people do who are not social workers, who don’t know how to figure all that out and run a committee?” Good said. “If my stress level is high, how’s their stress level?”

Caregiving causes enormous amounts of stress on caregivers, particularly in cases of Alzheimer’s where the care receiver’s loss of cognition carries on for many years. More than 60 percent of caregivers are at a higher risk for depression, illness, and accidents than the general population, and 41 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the patient.

The oldest person at Startup Weekend

When Tim Charles, the president of Mercy Medical Center, asked Good if she would be interested in helping establish a caregiver center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Good jumped at the opportunity. After partnering with Eric Engelmann of Geonetric and the Iowa Startup Accelerator in March of 2015, she took her ideas to Startup Weekend, entering the pitch competition to spend the weekend developing the idea with an entrepreneur-minded team.

“I came that Friday night, and there were probably 35 people who pitched,” said Good. “I swear I was the oldest person there, but nobody batted their eye. I didn’t know what I was doing, but it seemed to go okay.”

Over the weekend, CareDrop was born as Good and her team focused on the needs of someone newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As second place winners, CareDrop was awarded tuition to attend Venture School at the University of Iowa. Then, last fall, the company went through the Iowa Startup Accelerator.

How CareDrop works

What came out of the accelerator was CareDrop.co, a website where caregivers can create an account and answer a series of questions, which will match them with resources, including local agencies, volunteer groups, government programs and support groups.

Caregivers can also invite friends, family, or other volunteers, so when a need arises, they can easily send a message to the whole group instead of contacting each volunteer individually.

In the future, the CareDrop team hopes to add transportation and financial support, but for now the main areas of focus are support groups and respite care, so caregivers can receive emotional support and take breaks.

“From there, we’ll build out the other needs one at a time, like transportation, long term care needs, training on legal advice or how to take care of someone at home,” said Trevor Carlson, CareDrop’s entrepreneur-in-residence.

CareDrop.co is separate from the Family Caregiver Center, which Good has continued to get up and running alongside CareDrop, but the two have the same goals and complement each other.

No mistakes—just pivots

Carlson came to CareDrop with very little knowledge of caregiving and says the Iowa Startup Accelerator served as a crash course. After doing an event with Eric Engelmann, he had applied to the Iowa Startup Accelerator with an idea for an app for finding local things to do.

“I didn’t get in with my app, but then Eric called me three days before the accelerator started and said, ‘Do you want to take CareDrop through the accelerator and build it with me?’” said Carlson. “I was like, ‘Yes,’ and then I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s CareDrop?’ I really had no background in health care whatsoever.”

Through the accelerator, he learned the importance of laying out a hypothesis of the problem and testing it quickly so there is time to change direction if need be. Good had similar sentiments about her time in Venture School, saying she was grateful to learn that there aren’t any mistakes.

“You just be glad that you learned what you learned as quickly as you learned it, so you can do a pivot,” she said. “Just take the risk and go for it, and then pay attention to what happens.”

Expanding to new communities

In less than a year’s time, CareDrop is up and running, and so far, CareDrop and the Family Caregiver Center have connected with 77 caregivers in the Cedar Rapids area. They have also made a deal with a hospital in Texas to bring CareDrop to the community there, and are working out deals with several other communities.

As the number of adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s grows, the number of caregivers will also grow. CareDrop is focused on developing the software so they can keep adding more needs and rolling out to more communities.

“I would love it if whatever need a caregiver could possibly have, that we could have that available for them,” Carlson said. “That it saves them time and makes their lives a little easier, because they’re already hard enough.”

Anne Easker is an Iowa City-based writer who loves telling stories about passionate people.

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