Last summer a friend of Marni Mandell was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I knew I wanted to help her, I just didn’t know how,” Mandell said in an interview. “I knew there had to be a way to help that went beyond dropping off meals, but I couldn’t find a service that was helpful in letting me know what was needed.”
In the end Mandell sent a pizza for her friend, her husband and her four children. She also set up a spreadsheet laying out for friends what tasks each would take on to make life easier for the patient and her husband. Months later, the friend told her that the best thing about receiving the pizza was the delivery person – she could just take the pizza without worrying about thanking or entertaining the bearer of the much-needed gift.
That experience gave Mandell, 39, the idea to build CareHood, a startup meant to ease the stress of both patients and their caregivers in difficult times. “The idea is to build something to enable patients and caregivers to take care of themselves in a way that they need, rather than us figuring out what is helpful and doing things that really aren’t,” Mandell said.
CareHood went live at the end of May and has been accepted as one of 128 startups participating in MassChallenge Boston, an accelerator that provides mentorship and office space to start-ups and connects them with corporate partners and investors.
“Our research found that caregivers are a hugely under-served market. They are overwhelmed with responsibility — and many times aren’t getting the support they need.” Mandell said. “We learned that there are many ways to help patients that go beyond meals — like doing house chores, providing transportation, and handling a lot of administrative details. It was the everyday things that really helped.”
CareHood allows caregivers and patients to learn what has helped other people in similar situations, and allows them to build a care package of services, gifts, tasks and errands that they can send out to their friends and family and get them to pitch in. The platform is completely free for the users, Mandell said.
Mandell, who immigrated to Israel in 2010, is a former VP of business development at Payoneer, an international money transfer company.
On the CareHood website caregivers or patients set up a page, giving basic information about themselves and their needs. Then they can proceed and see what gifts, services, tasks and errands would be helpful for them. They can choose what they need and also set out a calendar with the tasks, errands and things they’d like done. This list is then sent out to families and friends, who then can pitch in, whether taking out the garbage or sitting with the patient in chemo.
Patients may be hesitant to ask for help, Mandell said. “But caregivers are more willing to receive help, because they have so much responsibility to deal with.”
Additionally, there will be a community wall where they can update their friends and family on their condition, and their community can respond with messages, pictures and video.
Similarly, the CaringBridge website, put together by a nonprofit organization, allows people to easily get updates and offer support and encouragement, saying that “one in nine people in the U.S. have used CaringBridge to rally support for a loved one during a health journey.” CaringBridge caters to 236 countries globally, the website says.
“How we stand out is that we provide ideas as to what has been useful to other people and will ultimately connect the services as well — all while providing a place to coordinate all efforts,” Mandell said.
CareHood already has its first members, Mandell said, declining to give numbers: “We are at the very beginning.” The company plans to increase its reach of clients by partnering with organizations that help people cope with illnesses, she said.
For now CareHood services the US area only.