Any family that has spent any time caring for aging parents, grandparents or those with special needs knows how stressful it can be, and how much energy is required, to manage in-home care. From keeping track of and organizing appointments, contacts and medications to finding and coordinating with the best caregivers, the process can feel like a full-time job — let alone having to worry about keeping all of that information private and secure.
That’s where HomeHero comes in. Backed by L.A.-based incubator and studio, Science, Inc., HomeHero is launching today on a mission to build a layer of trust in the senior care market and help families reduce the headache inherent to finding, hiring and managing in-home care for seniors. After struggling to find quality, affordable care for their elderly grandparents, Kyle Hill and Mike Townsend began building HomeHero last year to help alleviate some of the stress that many families experience when trying to find care for aging loved ones.
Part of the stress many families endure during this process comes from trying to find the best in-home care they can afford, while allowing aging relatives to stay in their homes — the issue around which the whole care process and discussion revolves once aging loved ones actually admit that care is needed. Over the years, it’s been the focal point for many-a-family discussion (or arguments) the world over.
After his grandfather passed away, says co-founder Kyle Hill, his family watched as his grandmother’s health deteriorated at a rate they hadn’t anticipated, and they were forced to move quickly to find caregivers as a result. But finding an experienced, vetted caregiver ended up being a much bigger headache then they expected and, once they did find one, they found it extremely difficult to manage that care at a distance.
Over the last 30 years, Hill says, the average age of elderly people leaving their home for full-time, managed care has increased from 74 to 90, and the average distance between the elderly and the closest adult child has jumped from 32 miles to 56 miles. So, when the founders began building HomeHero, they set out to develop a product that would “consolidate in-home care services into a simple platform” and one that “families could begin using right away,” without any barriers to entry.
To do so, the Santa Monica-based startup is introducing two main products at launch, beginning with HomeHero Connect, which the founders describe as a simple tool designed to help families manage independent caregivers by giving them access to timesheet tracking, daily activity summaries (with audio recording), emergency phone alerts and automated payments.
The second is HomeHero Marketplace, through which families managing care for aging loved ones can access a marketplace of hundreds of experienced and vetted caregivers, which includes high-definition video profiles, background checks, social references and customer reviews. Families can also view caregivers by location, plotted on a map, and use HomeHero’s search tool to filter caregivers by gender, number of reviews, years of experience and language.
At launch, the marketplace will focus on caregivers in Southern California, with the geographical coverage expected to expand in the coming months, Hill says, but anyone (in any location) will be able to access HomeHero Connect and the startup’s in-home care management tools.
As to how caregivers are screened, the founders say that each is subject to a “rigorous certification process,” which includes an in-person interview, entrance exam and background check. The vetting process also takes into account references from past clients, Townsend says. The rates start at $15/hour and increase from there, but the idea, the founders say, is to allow families to avoid having to rely on third-party agencies, putting the ability to discover, hire and monitor that care back into their hands without the extra cost.
In terms of its target audience, the HomeHero co-founders say that caregivers listed in their marketplace run the gamut, but most will be able to accomplish everything from basic chores and housekeeping to the most sensitive personal needs. The idea, Hill and Townsend tell us, is to provide access to caregivers that can provide round-the-clock care and daily assistance to less regular, weekly drop-ins, for example.
Furthermore, as it can feel like a big risk for families to hire caregivers when they’re half-way across the country — because it is — to ensure the safety of its customers and their loved ones, HomeHero has a $1 million insurance policy to cover both bodily injury and property damage in the event of an accident. For those who are looking for extra assurance and peace of mind, once a family is up and running on the startup’s platform, caregivers have the ability to clock-in and clock-out from any phone, landline or cell, using HomeHero to provide daily summaries and voice recordings.
While it make seem like a niche tool to those not familiar with the process of managing in-home care for elderly loved ones, the fact of the matter is that care management still lives predominantly offline and happens through a mish-mash of online and offline networks and tools. Traditionally, in-home care can be an expensive proposition, and it’s not one that families enter into lightly, which means that those who can provide easier, more affordable alternatives — and access to caregivers that are actually experienced and trustworthy — could stand to benefit from an active and loyal customer base.
While the problem remains and the demand is increasing as people live longer and the elderly stay in their homes for longer and longer, HomeHero is far from being alone in tackling this market. CareZone, the NEA-backed startup founded by former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz, is also building out a private, secure online service, which allows people and families to better take care of their loved ones — whether aging parents, children or those with special needs.
Other startups are tackling individual pieces of the in-home and care facility pipeline, including Silver Living, which is building a “consumer reports” for senior care communities, or those like TenderTree, which focus on the caregiver marketplace side of the market. Nonetheless, there’s still plenty of green-field ahead for these players, and, albeit after some serious customer education and awareness-raising, plenty of opportunity.