Mobile app keeps seniors healthy at home

Caren, a mobile application available on both Android Apps and the App Store, offers families a virtual tool to care for aging parents. The application customizes and stores client medical information and preferences in any language to support caregivers and family members.

People in care often need routine and consistency to reduce anxiety,” says Christina Chui, the founder and chief executive officer of Caren. “For instance, if someone has dementia, using a specific coffee cup is important to navigating their daily routine. If the cup is missing, their entire day is off.”

Caren, a mobile app, offers families care for aging parents. | Photo courtesy of CareCrew Technologies

Caren is designed to store medical history and preferences of aging parents. This information can be shared with professionals, family members or a rotating schedule of different care workers who are responsible for administering medications and support services in the absence of a family member.

As a graduate student at UBC working towards her Masters in Health Administration, Chui is in contact with many physicians and nurses who observe hospital emergencies of seniors caused by a decline in care.

“Many hospital emergencies by seniors are preventable,” says Chui. “Consistent care ensures that aging parents are eating proper meals every day, taking correct doses of medications and maintaining proper hygiene.”

Language and culture key design element for mobile app

Caren is designed to share data in any language. This is a significant feature that allows people to communicate in their first language. As a graduate student in health administration, Chiu is interested in the benefits of language and culture as part of caregiving, observing that seniors often feel more comfortable speaking in their first language.

“I believe that people who care for seniors should be able to speak their language to communicate,” says Chiu.

Respecting a client’s culture is also important to consistent care. Chui is trained to refer to seniors by their last name, but she recognizes that there are nuances; for example, some older Chinese men like to be called Uncle. This type of information can be uploaded to the mobile app so caregivers know how to address their clients.

Caren recognizes that a person in care has a preferred way of being addressed,” says Chiu. “This information helps create open communications and trust between the caregiver and the person under their care.”

The flexibility of this application allows families to personalize the information to fit their needs, which could include preferences based on language, culture, social economics and education levels.

“In a typical Southeast Asian family, it’s more common for the wife, daughter or a daughter-in-law to care for the elderly,” says Chiu. “But there are male family members who would like to participate, but culturally don’t feel comfortable taking on a parent with incontinence.

Caren breaks down these cultural barriers and allows all family members to participate in important decisions involving the care of a loved one, but it also provides family members with choice in how they can participate in this care.

Next level of senior care

Chiu has her sights on developing a leading senior’s care platform with the launch of her mobile app Caren. In the future, she envisions it being able to make smart recommendations to prevent hospitalization and keep seniors healthy at home.

“One of our clients is using the app for his dog,” says Chiu. “People are using Caren in creative ways. Our target is seniors because it’s my passion.”

Chiu first pitched her idea at Hacking Health Design Challenge in 2016, winning the people’s choice award. The following year, she won the Fraser Health Hackathon. In 2018, Chiu joined the e@UBC’s Lean Launchpad program, incorporating her company, CareCrew Technologies, to start raising business capital.

By the summer of 2018, Chiu had moved into Innovation Boulevard’s Surrey office and became a client of SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, which provides mentoring and start-up support to new innovators. More recently, CareCrew won the SFU Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize social impact award.

“I wanted to do something that would alleviate the stress on our healthcare system,” says Chiu. “In my studies, I found the missing link was family. Families are willing to play a bigger role if we empower them with the right tools.”

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