From a very early age, I have been a caregiver. I didn’t realize how influential this role has been to my personality, interests, and decisions until I began working on my current startup, www.Yeva.co — a digital space for users to share caregiving advice through their personal stories. I started Yeva because my journey wasn’t unique, and millions of others shared and will share my experience. But the real beginning of Yeva starts with my father, Deepak.
Dad is a doctor, singer (he brings his guitar everywhere), foodie, chef, and universally described “life of the party.” He also had polio as a child.
My father was able to overcome much of the physical and emotional difficulty of growing up with polio in a country that at the time severely stigmatized disabilities. Even after my family moved to America, for most of my childhood I didn’t realize that he lived with an ailment.
Unfortunately, the polio took its toll with time, and eventually as I grew older new routines appeared. My father began to use a cane. During a trip to Disney Land he had to use a wheelchair for the day (10-year-old me loved cutting the long lines with him). Over time, I became an expert at finding ramps, freight elevators, and other roundabout ways to avoid stairs.
The National Alliance for Caregiving defines a caregiver as “someone who is responsible for attending to the daily needs of another person.” I began by physically supporting my father to and from his car. Then I became his sous-chef, scurrying around for anything out of arm’s reach in the kitchen. Later, I helped with showers, as navigating a slippery bathroom became more daunting, and assisted with putting on dress shirts or suit jackets.
As I grew older, and my father’s physical condition worsened, I would take on physically challenging tasks. In college, I would come home just to bring up heavy boxes and suitcases from the basement. And now, as my father routinely uses an electric scooter to move around, I move him in and out of the scooter, and lift it in and out of the car.
Caregivers are hidden all around us and struggling
66 million informal caregivers in America support someone elderly, sick, or disabled. In addition, 5 million direct care workers such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants support families. Yet, time and time again caregivers like us go through this journey by ourselves. The burden is so high that 48% of caregivers say they consider their situations to be highly stressful. Conservatively, 20% of caregivers suffer from some form of depression.
In addition to financial and emotional costs, there are other pressing, growing challenges in caregiving. The ratio of caregivers to patients has shrunk by 400% at a time when the US population is rapidly aging (10,000 people turn 65 every day). Simply put, the current model of caregiving is broken, and there hasn’t been enough discussion on how to fix it. Ultimately, every single person will be a caregiver.
We will all be caregivers at some point in our life. It happened earlier than average for Drew and me, and we hope to use those experiences to help others in this journey.
Building Yeva to help
As a caregiver, along with my mother and sister, it always shocks me how infrequently we openly discuss caregiving. As our population lives longer and ages with increasingly chronic, manageable conditions, caregiving will become a ritual of life. Right now, families and caregivers are thrown into unfamiliar situations that unbeknownst to them, their co-workers, neighbors, and friends are also experiencing.
70% of caregivers are currently looking to technology for personalized resources and information specific to their situation. That’s why my co-founder Drew (who has been a caregiver for his mom, a kidney cancer survivor) and I are working on Yeva. A single place where all caregivers can share knowledge, and gain value from their collective experiences. Yeva enables users to share, read, or hear stories that validate our emotions as caregivers AND provide best practices on caregiving based in common experiences. These stories are then personalized to the individual family’s circumstances.
We will all be caregivers at some point in our life. It happened earlier than average for Drew and me, and we hope to use those experiences to help others in this journey. We need your help! If you know any current caregivers we would love to chat with them. You can send them to www.yeva.co or send their contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take it from there.