OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Call in the Caregiver Cavalry

A website where caregivers and former caregivers can be matched to "exchange," give and/or or receive respite relief on a volunteer basis.

Photo of Susan
2 5

Written by

Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

The volunteer service allows overburdened, overwhelmed informal caregivers in need of support to connect with other caregivers and/or former caregivers who are able to provide volunteer respite care so the active in-need caregivers can have a break.

This website is like a "dating" site where overburdened caregivers can connect with other caregivers and/or former caregivers who have time available to volunteer to do respite care,  thus giving those who are overburdened the opportunity to recharge their batteries.

It's often difficult for informal caregivers qualified, trained, care workers who are equipped care for people with dementia.  "Relief" workers provided by agencies are often not up to speed with respect to dementia care, and caregivers find their loved ones suffer ill effects as a result. This means that the informal care giver coming back from even a couple of hours of respite may find their loved one in some kind of distress on their return, which has the impact of negating the positive effects of having had a few hours off. People who are caregivers or who have been caregivers usually have a better understanding of what's involved in caring for people with dementia and are more likely to be able to provide a positive experience.

 I believe former caregivers  represent an untapped resource for respite. They will clearly understand the need, having experienced it themselves, and I think they will be willing to help others who are in the boat in which they once found themselves. Moving forward,  as the needs of informal caregivers increase, the pool of people who will be former caregivers will also grow. I believe need to find ways to take advantage of the expertise and goodwill of this cohort to supplement thinly spread formal social services.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

This idea is completely untried. I think it needs to be piloted in a medium-sized city where respite services are lacking and caregivers are in distress. The primary obstacle will be developing a critical mass of potential volunteers. It will require input from local organizations within the test market.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Shared experience of similar, matching" models would be helpful, as well as ideas of how to run a pilot.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

Primary care partner for ten years to my mother who lived with Alzheimer disease. Blogger. Dementia care advocate. Research collaborator. My blog is here:


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Susan,

Really interesting idea! Have you checked out Hivemind - caregiver mentoring network ?

Photo of Susan

I've just checked it now Kate, and yes, Hivemind is a better and bigger idea than this - I love it <3