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The Work You Do Caring For Elderly Parents Now Comes With Gift Cards

A new platform called Careticker is finding ways to recognize and thank young people caring for older family members–and saving health insurance companies money.

The Work You Do Caring For Elderly Parents Now Comes With Gift Cards
[Photos: Ti_ser via Shutterstock]

Sixty-nine million Americans work as unpaid caregivers–about 29% of the population. They drive their moms to therapy, cook for parents who can’t cook for themselves, and pick up prescriptions for relatives. They do a huge amount of work. Yet nobody gives them anything for it. They do it out of love, or because they have to.

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Caregiving work does have economic value, though. To deliver the equivalent care in a formal setting like a care-home or hospital would cost billions. So, there’s actually an incentive for health care companies and society at large to look after caregivers properly, rather than ignoring them. They’re actually saving us a lot of money by doing what they do.

Chiara Bell recognized this and wondered how to bring the value of caregiving into the open. That’s the aim of her new platform, Careticker: to express the worth of caregiving work in economic terms and to persuade companies to pay for it.


“This is a workforce that we haven’t supported and put a structure around,” she says. “Imagine the impact if the caregivers were better supported. We would help people to become healthier and age better.”

The key to Careticker is to record what caregivers do all day long. There’s a section where they can describe tasks and tag them into categories. So under “shopping,” you can say you’ve just been to CVS, or under “woundcare” you can say how you’ve just re-dressed a scar. Each of these tasks earn points, which go towards redeemable incentives. Taking your mother to the doctor might earn five points, for example, and 60 points will get you a Wal-Mart gift card.

Careticker, which won second prize at a recent HIT Lab Innovators Summit, is currently in beta-testing with about 1,000 users. “We’re aggregating this data so we can prove that by funding incentives, [the health plans] are reducing costs and they should share in the savings,” Bell says.

During the beta stage, two insurers are providing the gift cards and other incentives. In time, Bell thinks they could actually pay caregivers a wage, as it would be cheaper than caring for a patient in hospital. In fact, they may not have to shell out much. The trial has shown that caregivers are less interested in the incentive amount than getting anything at all.

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“It’s not the value of the incentive that’s driving them. it’s that they’ve never been recognized before,” Bell says. “Now they have a platform that says ‘we think you’re doing of a great job and thank you.'”

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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