Renee Fry was fresh off a stint as deputy chief of staff to former governor Mitt Romney and was settling into a new marketing job in 2008 when she suffered a seizure and learned she had a massive brain tumor.
“Your life just changes overnight,” she said.
As did the lives of Fry’s mother and sister, who were thrust into the role of caretakers, helping her recover from a successful 14-hour surgery and managing the extensive rehabilitation she needed to regain motor function.
From this trying period came the inspiration for Making Care Easier, a startup founded by Fry and her sister, Julie, to help people plan and manage the health care needs of family members. The company’s website and mobile app can store electronic medical records, provide the latest research on health conditions, and help multiple caretakers coordinate schedules. It also offers online shopping for durable medical equipment.
The target market for Making Care Easier is the more than 50 million Americans who act as caregivers for adult relatives, many of whom are middle-aged people who become responsible for their aging parents just as their children reach maturity.
Julie Fry knew those responsibilities well. She is a former marketing director for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, and previously ran a business that remodels homes to accommodate the needs of elderly patients and people with disabilities. But even she admits she was surprised by how hard it was to organize vital information when caring for her sister.
“We needed a site to help us create and store our important information like emergency plans, care plans, medicine plans,” Julie Fry said.
“It had to be one place everyone could access from anywhere to not only find information, but act on that information. We couldn’t find it, so we created it.”
Julie Fry described a common scenario: adult siblings living in different parts of the country, each wanting to assist their elderly father after a stroke but unsure how to contribute. Making Care Easier would help them divide responsibilities, schedule visits, coordinate with professional services, and make a game plan in case their father returned to the hospital for another emergency.
The siblings also could store their father’s medical records in a shareable electronic format, so there is no wondering, “Who’s got Dad’s MRI?”
Making Care Easier is free for users. Revenue comes from advertising and fees collected from retailers when users buy medical equipment through the site.
As baby boomers age and require in-home care, the need for a service like Making Care Easier will increase, Renee Fry said.
“There are going to be lots of people like my mom was when I was sick, who need advice and help on how to be a caregiver,” she said.Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.