Difference Collaborative


Difference Collaborative

This is an interview with Cariloop's Michael Walsh (Chief Executive Officer) and Steve Theesfeld (Chief Integrity Officer). Cariloop was a 2020 Caregiving X2 Visionary Award winner along with Wellthy and Torchlight.

Tell us your family caregiver origin story. What sparked/prompted Cariloop's efforts to support family caregivers?  

Both Michael and Steve understand what it’s like to be a caregiver. They saw a need to support caregivers throughout their journeys, and--as lifelong friends--founded Cariloop together.  

While in college at Colorado University, Steve’s future father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, which meant that he and his then fiancée--now wife--were very involved in his care. After graduating from Purdue in 2007, Michael helped care for his three youngest sisters as his mother was providing care for his ailing grandfather. Through these experiences, the Cariloop founders saw first-hand the challenges that comes with family caregiving and the impact it can have on a person's professional and personal lives.

Cariloop was founded in 2012 to bring family caregivers, hospital systems, and senior living providers together to create a more seamless healthcare experience. 

In 2014, after going through the Health Wildcatters accelerator and first round of angel funding, the young entrepreneurs realized through analysis of their early data that caregivers were most active on the platform Monday through Thursday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m--all the while working their “regular” jobs. This prompted conversations with HR and benefits professionals as well as professional employment organizations and others to better understand the landscape and how family caregiving responsibilities may impact the workplace and the employer’s response. This resulted in the creation of a solution to help the employee caregiver. In 2016, Cariloop came out with, “the world’s first tech-enabled, human-powered, caregiving-support platform.” 

What was the biggest challenge you faced working with employers?

The faced numerous challenges the first couple of years since they had no data, no clients, and no measurable proof that their intervention was having a positive impact. Thankfully, a lot of new research had come out from known entities, like Genworth and AARP, showing the importance and impact of family caregiving on employees and their respective employers.  

Additionally, during the product demonstrations, organizational executives realized that they were family caregivers and had their own individual stories. From the beginning, Cariloop has had an offering for individual users. However, as time has gone on, the primary go-to-market strategy focuses on employers and their potential, greater impact.

What has been the Cariloop employee experience with respect to caregiving?

Cariloop is the biggest user of their own product as defined by the number of cases started relative to the number of eligible employees. However, it’s not just the use of the platform but how policies and practices support family caregivers with respect to flexibility and understanding of where they’re at with regards to what they are dealing with. Employees feel that Cariloop has a vested interest in their careers and also their families because they recognize the integration--and not separation of--work and the rest of life. 

Cariloop has grown very rapidly, going from 16 to 78 employees in 18 months. Fortunately, their culture of inclusivity, flexibility, and compassion has supported Cariloop’s rapid growth. The caregiving experience that many employees come to Cariloop with provides the foundation to appropriately support one another. The next step is to formally create structures and development opportunities to encourage and uphold the caregiving culture. New Cariloop employees go through a very scripted orientation process to get people acclimated to being a “Looper.” They've evolved and improved support over time by making important changes from recruitment through performance management. Employees as well as employers are choosing to work with Cariloop because of their approach in meeting the ever-increasing needs of family caregivers. 

Unfortunately, there are many barriers to family caregiving success. The current healthcare market has been focused on three stakeholders: patients, payors, and providers, leaving family caregivers out of the conversation. Sustained success must include caregivers and the challenges they face. Fortunately, awareness has been an unintended result of the pandemic. Employers are now more attuned to the needs of employees. Cariloop has had more opportunities to educate current as well as potential clients to the importance of caregiver support and creating caring cultures. 

In late Q4 2020/early Q1 2021 Cariloop converted to a Public Benefit Corporation. This required a philosophy document, called the Technicolor Philosophy, clearly spelling out what Cariloop intends to do both internally and externally to balance the needs of all stakeholders. This drives all policies and procedures. Cariloop takes every opportunity to communicate their intention and desire to be tested against those intentions with all stakeholders. They recognize that this effort is much bigger than any one impacted group and tracks the impact their platform is having on the external market. They also provide feedback and space for internal team members to learn and grow. From the beginning, Cariloop has been intentional in measuring time saved and the emotional wellbeing of caregivers. They believe there is a much greater positive impact to their efforts that will become more evident as time goes on.  

Structural issues within corporate America and within our demographics were highlighted during the pandemic. Fortunately, more companies are recognizing and interested in addressing these issues. Employers are looking for solutions and are willing to make it a priority in their benefit strategy. Cariloop’s goal is to significantly and positively impact the employee caregiving landscape. partnered with the Difference Collaborative to identify organizations that are proactively working to both support their own employees with family caregiving and to help organizations support their employees so they can care, work, and thrive. To learn more about family caregiving and employers, also check out these podcasts, articles, and webinars from the Difference Collaborative.

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