New app aims to increase affordable elder care in the Lowcountry

The need for caregivers is growing across South Carolina and here in the Lowcountry.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 10:22 PM EDT|Updated: May. 15, 2023 at 11:35 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The need for caregivers is growing across South Carolina and here in the Lowcountry.

By 2030, South Carolina will need 41,850 caregivers to support the population according to The Alzheimer’s Association. That’s a 31% increase from 2020.

A new app is connecting college-educated caregivers with families, and it’s now expanded to two Lowcountry colleges.


It’s called CareYaya. The company’s CEO and Co-founder said expanding to the College of Charleston and Charleston Southern University has introduced over 100 additional students to their care network so far.

“Eldercare is very expensive and generally unaffordable for many families. What we’ve found in public health research is that 80-85% of families are priced out of the market,” CEO and co-founder of CareYaya Neal Shah said.

Shah said many local caregiving agencies have national affiliates, charging $25-30 an hour, but the caregivers only see half of that.

“As a result of the very high mark-up, you have a huge caregiver burnout that’s resulting in huge caregiver shortages throughout society,” Shah said.

He said CareYaya charges nothing for connecting students with families in need of a temporary caregiver.

Students must be aspiring for a career in healthcare in order to join the network, Shah said. He said they are referred through their professors or pre-health advisors.

From there, the CareYaya team verifies their enrollment with the college, runs them through a background check, and sits them down for a one-on-one interview. They are also constantly vetting each student, with families leaving a review after each visit, Shah said.

He said the majority of students in the network are working to accumulate patient care hours for physician assistant school. He says CareYaya fulfills a great need for students, and in return, they provide great care.

A strain on caregivers

“It’s finding folks that have the right skillset, the right heart, and the ability to deal with the emotional turmoil that comes with caring for people who have a degenerative disease,” Executive Director of Respite Care Charleston Sara Perry said, explaining some of the reasons for the caregiver shortage in the Lowcountry.

Perry said on top of the unique skills required for caregivers, for many families, quality care is very expensive.

“It’s a very common misconception that caregivers or memory care facilities will be covered by insurance. But that’s just not the case,” Perry said. “Families are struggling to pay out of pocket for just a few hours of a break.”

And - burnout. Caregivers in South Carolina provided an estimated 355 million hours of unpaid care in 2022, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Perry said it’s challenging for the family or friends of a loved one with Dementia to find a trusted caregiver to help out for multiple reasons.

She said some people with dementia can experience anxiety and clinginess toward their caregiver. Finding someone both parties feel comfortable with is difficult, she said.

“Caregivers need access to affordable, reliable professionals who can come in and give them just a little bit of a break,” Perry said.

She said consistency is extremely important when it comes to dementia care, but she’s optimistic about the impact CareYaya could have on giving full-time caregivers a break.

The app offers a new way for people to enter the caregiving community, and she’s excited about the impact the app could have on a new generation of caregivers, Perry said.

If you or someone you know is a college student looking to get connected with CareYaya or if you believe your loved one would benefit from the service, visit the CareYaya website for more information.