(Photo by Kazuma Seki/iStock by Getty Images)

Jessica Nam Kim had it all. Three beautiful kids. Her own successful business. She took pride in expertly juggling her various commitments, never dropping the ball on any task, small or large.

But when Kim’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, that all changed. Her mother moved in with Kim and her children, who were 10, 7, and 5 years old at the time. Kim began to take on the role of full-time caregiver for her mother. She was doing everything from nursing, to ferrying her between doctors’ appointments, to managing her finances.

“I felt forced to quit my job for the first time ever in my life,” Kim told attendees at From Day One’s recent webinar, Making Family Benefits Truly Inclusive for Working Caregivers. “It was the hardest, loneliest time in my life as I cared for her through hospice.”

From Identifying a Problem to Devising a Solution

This difficult experience allowed Kim the realization that she did not have to go through the trials and tribulations of caregiving alone. Rather, it was Kim’s support network that enabled her to make it through the most challenging moments of being a caregiver. 

“Realistically, people cannot do this alone without sustainable support,” Kim shared with journalist and author Ericka Sóuter, who interviewed Kim in this engaging conversation. 

That inspired Kim, a seasoned entrepreneur and former Kraft Foods executive, to launch ianacare: a startup that provides the infrastructure needed to support caregivers. “IANA” stands for “I Am Not Alone.” The problem, in Kim’s view, is that caregivers often lack the support needed to successfully navigate their caregiving responsibilities. 

“When we think about caregiving, we tend to think about the beginning and the end of life,” asserted Kim, especially from the perspective of employee benefits. However, caregiving takes on many different forms, including helping a loved one manage a chronic condition, a disability, a special need, or a major issue like a broken leg.

Speaking on family caregiving, Jesssica Kim of ianacare, top, and moderator Ericka Sóuter (Image by From Day One)

Ianacare’s platform takes all of these different types of caregiving into consideration on its platform. Designed for businesses to provide as a benefit to their employees, ianacare brings together caregivers’ personal social circles, local resources, and employee benefits all in one centralized location. Ianacare does not dispense clinical advice; rather, it helps users access the resources they need.

Ianacare supports this information with content created by caregiving experts, on top of providing access to one-on-one advice from a caregiver navigator. These navigators have a minimum of 10 years of clinical experience, typically as a nurse, case manager, or social workers. They also have more than five years of experience with family counseling and navigating local resources.

“We evolve with you–we’re not just a solution that solves one trigger point,” Kim noted, underscoring the reality that caregivers’ needs can dramatically change over time. 

So, what’s ianacare’s secret ingredient? Technology. It leverages digital tools to provide users with a better caregiving experience. For example, Kim said that ianacare’s navigators are four times more productive than the average. “Each navigator can handle over 400 clients and still be very personalized with them because the tech on our backend empowers navigators to be efficient with their time.” That time savings is especially critical, considering today’s labor shortage in the health care industry.

Equally, ianacare’s platform has been clinically validated by a peer-reviewed medical journal. “That proved that we gave each caregiver up to $10,000 of out of pocket savings every year, while also saving them 200 hours per year,” said Kim.

Empowering Employers to Support Their Caregivers

 According to a Harvard Business School study, 61% of employees are caregivers, and over 32% of caregivers voluntarily leave their jobs because they have an insufficient support network. That adds up to $530 billion in lost productivity due to caregiving responsibilities. By partnering with ianacare, employers can help ensure that their employee caregivers are sufficiently supported. Kim outlined three major human resources initiatives that ianacare can help support.

First: diversity, equity, and inclusion. “You cannot move the needle on DEI if you don’t deal with caregivers’ needs,” she said, noting that these responsibilities often fall on the shoulders of already underrepresented employees. Second, ianacare arms companies with another tool to alleviate employees’ mental health struggles. “The mental health surge we’re all seeing now due to the pandemic is highly felt by family caregivers,” said Kim. Third is retention. Employees increasingly value workplaces that prioritize work-life balance and are aware of their ‘whole person,’ not just the person that shows up from nine to five. In today’s war for talent, employers can stand out by working with ianacare and extending the sustainable support caregivers need.

But Kim’s vision for ianacare goes beyond the employee-employer relationship. “Ianacare is not only aiming to change employer culture, but society overall. We've pulled together key executives, influencers, policymakers, and private and public sector leaders to create this important infrastructure. And we want to lead the way to a more inclusive world for caregivers.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, ianacare, who sponsored this webinar.

Riley Kaminer is a Miami-based journalist, researcher, and content strategist. As a freelance tech writer and researcher, he has profiled more than 400 of the world’s top entrepreneurs and investors. His work has been featured in Forbes, the Times (UK), the Economist, Rest of World, LatAm Investor, Refresh Miami, and more.