In the new movie "Me Before You," a caregiver finds herself taking care of a man paralyzed in an accident. In the new movie "Me Before You," a caregiver finds herself taking care of a man paralyzed in an accident. In the new movie "Me Before You," a caregiver finds herself taking care of a man paralyzed in an accident. (Photo: New Line Cinema)

Neighbors 2.0: How caregivers can find help in the 'hood

Tending to a sick loved one? CareHood provides a care package of services, gifts, tasks and errands to those in need.

When two friends were diagnosed with cancer, Marni Mandell wanted to help, but she didn’t know how.

“I asked the question that everybody asks – how can I help? What can I do? The answer was, they really didn’t know. They didn’t know what kinds of help would be helpful to them. And they didn’t know what I could do, whether I was down the street or across the world,” she said.

This quandary gave Mandell, an American who moved to Israel in 2010, the idea for a new startup she called CareHood.

The site, which went live in May, was designed with two goals in mind: The first was to provide patients and caregivers crowdsourced information about the best way to help, and the second was to give friends and family the opportunity to provide meaningful help, no matter how far away they were from the patient.

“CareHood is a platform where you as a caregiver or a patient can go online, fill out a profile, and based on your condition or illness we will upload a care package of gifts, services, tasks and errands that have been helpful to other people in similar situations,” Mandell explained.

Care packages can be tailored to an individual's needs or preferences and then shared with friends, family or other members of your community – your “hood” – so that they will know the best ways they can help, whether it’s signing up for a task on the task calendar or buying a gift or service. The platform also allows people to send an encouraging note, picture or video.

To launch the service, CareHood interviewed patients and caregivers about their situation and what they found to be most helpful – from a gift certificate for a reflexology treatment to a pizza delivery.

Registering on the site is free for the patient and caregivers. When someone wants to purchase a gift or service, the transaction is handled through PayPal. CareHood says it does not charge any additional fees beyond what PayPal charges.

CareHood is similar to a growing number of sites that allow people to crowdsource assistance, like HelpAround, another Israeli-based startup for diabetics to manage data and get support from the community, and PlumFund, the California-based startup featured on “Shark Tank” that allows people to crowdfund their way through tough times.

The Carehood site was launched just a few months ago and is already drawing attention.The CareHood site was launched just a couple of months ago and is already drawing attention. (Courtesy photo)

Before starting CareHood, Mandell had spent 15 years working at the executive level in the U.S. nonprofit sector and Israel’s high-tech startup scene. An alum of the University of Colorado, she is a former VP of business development at Payoneer, and also worked business development and sales and partnerships at other companies.

While CareHood is primarily focused on helping people with cancer, Mandell recently wrote in a blog post that she was surprised to find herself as one of the first CareHood patients after breaking her foot. “Staring at cancer is not comparable to my broken bones that will eventually heal. But the feelings of helplessness in the middle of the night, I think, are similar, as are the kinds of help we need to persevere and come out the other side with dignity and grace,” she wrote.

If a patient’s illness is not listed on the CareHood site, they can still sign up. As the platform grows, they’ll add additional, more specialized situations to choose from.

The company is one of 128 startups participating in MassChallenge Boston, an accelerator that provides mentorship, office space and scholarships to high-impact startups and connects them with potential corporate partners and investors.

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