Visionary Award Nominee: Mike Eidsaune

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Visionary Award Nominee: Mike Eidsaune

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Nominated by: Christina Best

Tell us about the nominee's caregiving story.
At 25 years old, Mike experienced the the stress and frustration of family caregiving first hand. As his great-grandmother’s health declined she began needing more support from him and his family. Her desire to remain in her home only magnified the stress on the family as they reworked schedules and took on a more significant role in her activities of daily living. After several years of at-home care, the need for 24-hour support increasingly became a reality. That’s when Michael and his family made the difficult decision to move their great grandmother into senior living--a decision that disheartened Michael after he saw how demoralizing this move was for her.

In senior living, she needed help on a daily basis. The whole family helped out wherever they could, but with such a large group of helpers, there was a constant struggle to communicate with each other, coordinate visits, track who had already been done, and to share news about her wellbeing. Mike, along with his wife and children, made visits to the facility often, but it was upsetting because most times it didn’t feel like enough. Additionally, the stress and guilt felt by Michael’s parents, as they bare the responsibility of her welfare, weighed heavy on the entire family. Normally a positive and close family, they were worn down from the time spent advocating for their loved one’s care and happiness.

Following her move into assisted living, Mike’s great-grandmother’s health worsened. Within five years Mike, his great-grandmother, and his family had experienced almost every aspect of the long-term care continuum including skilled nursing, home care, and hospice. “Those final years were the worst for us. The negative impact on our family relationships were significant as we struggled to come together around her in her final years,” says Mike of his experience.

His time as a caregiver inspired Mike to leave a career in financial services to pursue an idea he had to improve the lives of other caregivers like him and his family. He realized that by empowering families through unified communication, he could reduce the burden and stress that his family had experienced for almost 10 years.

Today, Mike’s journey to improve caregivers lives has taken him all over the country, and his company, Carely, has been adopted globally by thousands of caregivers. The company has evolved significantly over the years, but the mission still remains the same: to improve the caregiver experience.

Tell us about the support the nominee provides. What makes it innovative? How has the support made caregiving easier or better?
Mike created Carely, a free mobile app designed for caregivers, in order to create a purposeful communication environment that empowers family caregivers to come together around the care of their loved one.

In planning for the business, Mike made the decision that, no matter what, the app would always be free for families to use. After five years, and multiple iterations, that decision still holds true. The Carely family app is available on any smart device and can be utilized by families for free. Families use Carely to communicate, coordinate, make decisions, and support one another. It helps families, who are often busy with work or spread apart geographically, answer the simplest questions: “Who saw mom/dad last?”; “Who’s going to see her/him next?”; and “How did those visits go?”

In addition to the family app, Carely has created a place for most senior living organizations to participate, so that families can easily connect with their loved one's provider(s). More recently, through the innovative use of technology, Michael and the Carely team believe they can do more to connect families to the local resources and support that they need the most, when they need it. Michael says, “It’s great that we can connect people and create a more intentional caregiving environment, but where most caregivers struggle early on is education. Most caregivers have never experienced this before, therefore, they have no idea where to turn for answers or support. We are finding ways to help them with that.”

Mike believes there is still a lot of work for him and our team to do, but that continues to inspire him. “We don’t just think about the 40+ million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. that need our help. We think about them, we think about their families, and we think about it globally. We want to have a positive impact on caregivers’ lives everywhere.”

How does the nominee inspire others?
Mike’s journey has inspired others to give caregivers a voice. The team at Carely sits around 15 people, and over the years our organization has worked closely with some of the largest organizations in caregiving today including: National Area Agencies on Aging, local chapters of the Alzheimer's Association, NHPCO, and others. Several of our newest members left long careers in health care to join the cause.

I joined the Carely team in 2016 as a freelance digital marketing consultant. I now work in a full-time marketing role. After my own caregiving experience, it felt like serendipity when I was introduced to Mike and learned about Carely. In the years since I began with the team, I’ve seen how far Mike’s positive attitude goes in driving our success. He leads with kindness and compassion--for our team and for the millions of caregivers whose lives could benefit from what we’re doing. He also has a “just keep swimming” mentality. No matter the challenges he’s faced, Mike puts his best foot forward and isn’t afraid of getting out of his comfort zone if it means learning and doing ‘it’ better then next time.

Based on my personal experience specifically, Mike inspires me to explore the ideas I have for our company. He’s nurtured my entrepreneurial spirit. Furthermore, I feel like I’m always learning new things about caregiving, aging, long-term care, and health care as a whole through the work I do. His encouragement and patience has been paramount to my growth in and understanding of this space.

I wholeheartedly believe in our mission, and the sense of ownership Mike has given me over my efforts makes me feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and that my work can make a real difference in the lives of family caregivers. I can’t wait to see how Mike’s vision continues to inspire growth within our team as well as other individuals and organizations in our industry. I have no doubt he will continue to inspire others to ‘do better’ for family caregivers.

Please provide testimonials of family caregivers or former family caregivers who benefit from this support.
Based on the feedback our app has received over the years, it’s easy to see what a simple but significant impact tools like ours can have on the lives of family caregivers.

“I love how easy it is to find and add new family members into your ap. I have two grandmothers in different nursing homes, and this app is great for keeping up-to-date with both of them!”

“I have an uncle in a nursing home and a very big family. This app helps us keep track of who is going to visit him and when. Now, despite our busy schedules, we can make sure our uncle is getting the treatment and care he deserves.”

“Great concept and design. This is the future of communication between family members caring for their loved one. Keep up the good work and look forward to future enhancements.”

“I was looking for something like this for a long long time. Thanks a lot.”




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