July 13, 2024 Donate

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CareYaya Brings UM Students to Care for Local Seniors

By Natalie Davies

The national caregiving organization CareYaya brings University of Michigan pre-med students to the homes of local seniors to create companionship and fill the caregiving gap.

“CareYaya is companion care,” Susan McAdams, who serves on the board of the CareYaya Foundation and leads Michigan CareYaya efforts, said. “It’s meal prep. It’s cleaning up a little bit. It’s walking the dog. It’s companionship. It’s fall prevention. They (student caregivers) will do nail clipping, help use the toilet, help get dressed, but they can’t do work with a cath or those types of things.”

CareYaya does not charge users a fee to join, and families pay students directly in Venmo, cash or whatever works best for them. McAdams explained many in-home caregiving options can cost more than $30 an hour, but most Careyaya students work for $15 dollars an hour and can do overnight care at a negotiated price.

young adult assisting a senior citizen in a living room
Photo provided by CareYaya/Susan McAdams

Students go through an interview series, HIPAA training, and background check to get involved. McAdams said though it’s a good way for students to start getting experience in the field, about a third of students are Certified Nursing Assistants or are EMT certified.

2024 UM Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience graduate Shea Nielsen started caregiving with CareYaya in September. Nielsen said she found the organization through the Psychology Department and Pre-Health newsletters at UM as well as online when searching for ways to get involved in healthcare without much prior direct experience.

“I was interested in CareYaya because it offers a low-stress setting for students to attain the necessary patient care hours to apply to medical or PA school. I was worried about balancing the time commitment of a certification program while taking classes at UM full-time, so this offered me an option to immediately start providing care.”

The CDC found in 2020 that one in five adults are caregivers who provide regular care or assistance to a friend or family member with a health problem or disability. Millions of older adults receive unpaid care, while about a third of caregivers give care for at least 20 hours a week.

McAdams cared for her father, Bob, who passed away in 2022. McAdams wouldn’t change a thing, but she admitted it was challenging to juggle caregiving, having a family with three children, and working.

“I often thought, ‘What if an older adult didn’t have children nearby?’ ‘What if their health was really poor?’” McAdams said. “I lost my truly amazing father as well as the sense of purpose I had in caring for him. It’s hard to find something that replaces that. I ran across the CareYaya concept and opportunity and felt it was meant to be. I have first-hand experience as a long-time caregiver and know the joys and challenges. I also know how the room changed when a young adult grandchild walked in the room to visit with “Grandpa Bob”. He was young again. They brought joy.”

Nielsen said her favorite part of caregiving is hearing the stories patients share.

“I love being welcomed into someone’s home and having the opportunity to ask about the plethora of books they have or trinkets that people have accumulated over their lifetime,” Nielsen said. “Hearing life stories and the feats that someone has accomplished as they are reflecting on their life well-lived is so valuable as someone just beginning my post-grad life journey. I hope the people I provide care to understand how impactful the wisdom they impart on me truly is. Their stories will live on through me.”

McAdams wanted the community to know CareYaya is currently working on several artificial intelligence and neurotechnology projects to improve care for those with dementia. Anyone interested in collaborating as a participant or an academic researcher should reach out to support@careyaya.org.

Families that need help with care can visit www.careyaya.org to fill out a quick survey about their needs and should get connected with potential caregivers within two to three days.