The elder care industry is huge, bringing in roughly $84 billion each year. But as Americans live longer, the need for home care grows. And older generations are confronting a growing problem: Who will take care of them when they can no longer care for themselves?
It’s this question that Helen Adeosun is trying to answer. She comes from a long line of caregivers. When her family moved to the U.S. from Nigeria, many of them got their start as service workers, eventually working their way up to nurses and doctors. Adeosun herself worked in caregiving during her time at the University of Notre Dame and Harvard and saw the problem first hand.
“We know that aging at home is better for older adults and their families, and it’s much more affordable than going into any sort of assisted living,” she said. “The problem is that in order to age at home, caregivers need to be there and, unfortunately, there’s a shortage of professionals able to meet that demand.”
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released their projections of which jobs will grow the fastest from 2016 to 2026. The Bureau expects the job of “personal-care aide” to grow faster than any other, with about 750,000 additional jobs; “home-health aide” is fourth on their list of fastest growers, adding an additional 425,000 jobs to the economy.
That’s why she founded CareAcademy, an online training program for professional caregivers of older adults.
CareAcademy provides lessons in short “bite-sized” courses taught mainly through video. The platform is built so that whether a user is just starting out or refreshing their knowledge, there’s something for everyone. Courses cover a range of topics including elder abuse, Parkinson’s disease care, fall prevention, infection control, dementia care and more. And because everything is online, users can learn anywhere, anytime.
Since founding the startup in 2016, Adeosun has raised $1.7 million in venture capital and has participated in Google For Entrepreneurs, a diverse entrepreneurs cohort in Durham, North Carolina. Although the company is still young, the platform trains thousands of caregivers each month.
We recently caught up with Adeosun to find out how CareAcademy is helping those in the industry, as well as to gather her advice for new entrepreneurs. Here’s what we found out:
What problems does CareAcademy innovatively solve through which technologies and services?
“We think there’s a huge challenge right now in the way that this country is aging. Within the U.S., we’re expected to see upwards of 80 million older adults, ages 65 onward, over the next 15 years. We’re helping a workforce of caregivers who have traditionally needed to go into a location to learn, which may be difficult for a lot of people. We’re servicing them with online learning to help them launch careers.”
What critical elder care skills does CareAcademy equip its clients with, and how and why?
“We equip caregivers with what’s called instrumental activities of daily living. When a caregiver goes into a home, it’s primarily to provide feeding, nutrition, bathing and run errands. We teach it in bite-size pieces of mainly video instruction, followed by interactive review to reiterate the different steps and aspects of caring for an older adult.”
Why are you so passionate about improving elder care in our country?
“$400 billion dollars worth of work goes into maintaining the dignity and the life of older adults. This could become a really big challenge and a big problem, or we could solve that and create opportunities for a lot of people, including people of color and people who are immigrants. We see caregiving, just as it was for my family, as a launching path for higher paying work within in the field.”
What was the entrepreneurial ‘ah-ha moment’ that led you to found CareAcademy?
“I think everyone always says that the ‘aha moment’ is not always an ‘aha moment’ on its own. It’s you facing the issue. When I worked as a caregiver, I remember walking into the homes of several families who looked to me to resolve and answer everything. But because I lacked the proper training, I wasn’t always quite certain of what to do or how to properly manage the experience for older adults. CareAcademy ensures that caregivers have a way to learn and practice those skills.”
Why did you pivot away from your initial business, SitterCycle, a childcare-focused venture, and how did it lead you to transition to an elder care business model?
“We were seeing a great need, including from a business perspective, in elder care. It started pulling away a lot of our attention so we just resolved that it’s always best to just focus and get really good at one thing.”
What challenges have you overcome on your entrepreneurial journey, and what lessons did you learn from them?
“You have to know your audience. Whether it’s customers or users or investors, which are all people we’ve had to learn to talk to, and getting sensitive to each of their needs — especially when the stakes are so high.”
What is your number one piece of advice for early entrepreneurs? Your top success tip?
“Being willing to listen to feedback. For us, that means looking to my team of folks I’ve chosen who I know will tell me the truth. It’s a huge blessing to hear what you don’t necessarily want to hear and being radically honest and having these people keep you honest.”