Home Sweet Home (Care): How Helen Adeosun is Working to Ensure the Elderly Have Top-Notch Caregivers By Their SidesApril 22nd, 2020
Perhaps no field has undergone as much transformation in recent years as the healthcare industry. Advanced technology has unlocked the ability to offer more effective, efficient, and personalized patient care, which has inspired industry leaders to further catalyze improvement in health care. While technology has ushered in a new era of health care, it takes brilliant people to ensure the combination of tech and health care results in revolutionary improvements. In our new blog series, “Meet the Female CEOs Who Are Driving Real Change in the Healthcare Industry”, you’ll hear candid insights from some of the most influential leaders in the healthcare industry. Each interviewee bears a unique story, but all are revolutionizing their respective fields for the better.
Next up in our series is Helen Adeosun, CEO & Co-Founder of CareAcademy. Helen’s company provides home care agencies with a best-in-class online education platform that enables caregivers to properly look after their patients.
Born out of her own first-hand experience as a caregiver, Helen founded CareAcademy to address the ever-growing population of elderly individuals in the U.S. We all want to live in our homes for as long as possible, but doing so means having help available when you need it. Helen founded CareAcademy in order to professionalize the home care and direct care workforce to ensure caregivers have the knowledge and tools needed to provide proper treatment. She’s already helped countless home care agencies better educate their workforce, and is working to ensure a future where seniors can know without a doubt that they’re receiving home care of the highest quality.
This is part 4 of 5 in our “Meet the Female CEOs Who Are Driving Real Change in the Healthcare Industry” series created in partnership with growth marketing agency Ideometry. Tune in next week for another installment!
Tell us a bit about CareAcademy?
Helen: CareAcademy is professionalizing the home care and direct care workforce. We know that there's a perfect storm happening where we increasingly need more direct care workers, home health aides, and nurses. There’s a big need for folks who are specifically within healthcare, but healthcare is not able to scale out the workforce nearly fast enough to meet this demand. We also know that the current population of folks over the age of 65 in this country is bigger than it has ever been.
A lot of older people have the expectation of growing old in their homes, but that's not going to be possible for the vast majority of them if we don’t find some solutions that will enable that. We're offering a way for direct care workers and caregivers to learn as they earn. What they're learning are very specific skills that are needed for home care.
We know that these workers are known to be the ones who facilitate health care in the home, so we’re making sure that not only are there going to be enough of these workers, but we're also going to be the validator of making sure it’s a quality workforce. Our parents and grandparents should be able to work with someone who knows how to facilitate health care, and make sure that folks are leading healthy, happy lives in their homes.
What milestones has your company achieved so far?
Helen: By the end of this quarter, CareAcademy will have served nearly 100,000 home care workers throughout the U.S. We work with close to 600 customers throughout the U.S. We’ve raised just under $4 million in fundraising. We currently have 22 full-time employees, and that number is set to double by the end of 2020.
Is CareAcademy intended to be used by home care agencies or can individual caregivers access the platform on their own?
Helen: We’re currently only working with home care agencies and not with individual care workers. But that’s something we’re certainly thinking about. We’re always thinking about how to enable the workflow of these home care agencies and allow for them to successfully treat their patients.
As someone who’s worked in direct care, I know firsthand that the people who enable successful treatment are the direct care workers, and the home care agencies are the ones who train these workers. So that’s why we’re marketing to home care agencies at the moment.
What’s the origin story of the company?
Helen: What motivated me to start CareAcademy was the fact that I worked as a home health aide myself. I also had family members who worked in this field. The inspiration for the company came from my own experiences. I didn’t have a lot of preparation before working with clients or patients. There was a tremendous need to have something that provided for an ongoing basis of learning and support that didn’t exist at the time.
Home care agencies are often stretched in terms of being able to provide that ongoing support, so I saw an opportunity to do that. I was sitting in a class during my time at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the whole premise of the class was creating a solution that would benefit a billion people. At its core, CareAcademy strives to achieve that goal.
We are a for-profit company that has been quite successful, but at the heart of what we do is the fact that we’re preparing direct care workers to skill and upskill. We’re giving folks a way to be recognized as professionals in this industry and earn more. We’re helping their employers thrive in this field because we need them to survive in order to facilitate health care in the home.
Most importantly, our work means that patients are going to have a quality professional that acts as a guide when it comes to their health care. This will be incredibly important as more and more people join the aging population and want the convenience of health care in their home. The ability to scale that idea and the home care workforce is going to be critical to anyone who wants to see the greater consumerization of healthcare happen.
It's not going to be just doctors and nurses looking after elderly folks in their homes. We’ll need all hands on deck. We're really proud to be working towards enabling everyone to work in this increasingly vital field within health care and get the right learning materials in front of them.
We were actually fortunate enough to interview you back in 2018. In that interview, you said that families often don’t see their caregivers as being legitimate medical experts. Do you think that stigma around caregivers has changed since 2018?
Helen: I think that there’s still a lot of work to be done in that department. Part of it has to do with social change. I think about CareAcademy in the whole stream of how healthcare professionalism really came about. I always joke that the doctors and dentists of the world today we’re the local barbers a hundred years ago. Back then, there was no way of knowing who was accredited and who wasn’t. Relative to other industries, home care is a fairly recent field within health care. It’s only about 40 years old, and most of the big companies within this field have only been around for 20 years at most. That’s pretty hard to believe, but it’s true.
Thinking about this from a macro perspective, I imagine that, as the services of the home care worker are increasingly needed, acknowledged professionalism is going to happen both within and outside the industry. Outside of the industry, the folks in our families who are relying on home care are going to start calling for more transparency and more recognition for these workers who are indeed professionals.
That movement towards professionalism doesn’t just happen by virtue of people wanting it to happen. It’s everyone that depends on home care calling for it to happen and making their voices heard. I think that's going to start to happen in this field, and we as a company are hoping to help facilitate that movement.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams but aren’t sure where to start?
Helen: For me personally, I think I took longer than I should have in terms of starting CareAcademy. I’m so glad that I ended up starting CareAcademy despite not knowing how it would go, because no one ever told me that you don’t have to know everything about entrepreneurship before starting your business. Since starting CareAcademy, I've had to embrace the emboldened side of me.
I've learned so much just in the act of doing entrepreneurship, and essentially faking it till I made it. I was a very reluctant founder, just because I think of myself as more of a problem solver than a tech founder. But by virtue of wanting to problem solve and by going through the iterations of learning, you grow up really fast. I'm always really surprised by how much I've grown alongside my company, which is why I always challenge folks to embrace growing with an idea, and then turning that into a company.
I would also say that it’s important to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. It can be hard sometimes to surround yourself only with family and friends, because they love us. Part of being an entrepreneur includes going through challenges, and the people that love you might question why you’re going through what you’re going through. They might try and steer you towards getting a stable job, and they’re coming from a place of love, but it can be hard to hear all of that as an entrepreneur.
If you haven’t walked in the shoes of an entrepreneur, it's really hard for you to offer the right advice. I encourage other entrepreneurs to seek out communities made up of entrepreneurs, because those are the people that you can troubleshoot with and also seek encouragement from.
Are there any specific mentors of yours that helped you get to where you are today?
Helen: I’ve had so many people help me along the way. I'd be remiss if I called out just one because there are so many people who have been there for me throughout my journey. From just offering a small piece of advice or writing the first check to fund our business, I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people who served as great mentors. When it’s all said and done, I'll probably have a massive list of hundreds of people who helped shape the company. I'm eternally grateful for anyone I've ever had a conversation with or mentored myself, because they've all been an inspiration to me.
What’s it been like being part of the Venture Lane community?
Helen: Our relationship with Venture Lane came from my connection with Christian Magel. I met Christian through an investor who is based in Venture Lane. We were one of the first companies in this space, and we’re a part of the community really before Venture Lane was Venture Lane.
In the early days of CareAcademy, I met Christian, and he facilitated our retreat. He had really amazing insights, and he was so meticulous about the retreat we were putting together and making sure it would be an amazing trip. He was very humble and introspective about how we should go about our retreat, and I was certainly impressed. Christian is always an incredibly happy, amazing, fun personality that’s just a delight to be around. We didn’t know about all of his incredible accomplishments before we met him, we just know he was a great facilitator who was a serial entrepreneur himself.
Fast forward to December 2018, and we were outgrowing the space that we were working in. I’ve always loved being in workspaces where I can learn from others and be inspired. Christian told us about his vision for Venture Lane and it was incredibly appealing to me, to the point where I was inviting other entrepreneurs into the space because of how great I knew it would be. Christian has built a really unique and marvelous ecosystem in Boston, and all the companies in this ecosystem are reaping the benefits of working alongside each other.
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Part 5 of our series will launch next week, so stay tuned for our next installment!
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