When her mother needed to transition to a higher level of care, Donna Thomson reached out to Huddol members for advice on housing and care options in Montreal. After co-caregiving for his aging parents, Rick Lauber joined Huddol to share what he had learned with other caregivers.
Huddol is the country’s first cross-disease, cross-platform, bilingual collaborative network that aims to help family caregivers navigate the care journey by drawing on the real-life insights of caregivers, health-care experts and service providers. Members can join existing communities or create their own customized “huddols” for emotional support and to share knowledge.
A non-profit managed by the Canadian Caregiver Network, Huddol was soft-launched in the fall of 2017. Within months it had close to 10,000 members. With support from AGE-WELL, work is underway to gradually introduce artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning to Huddol, an AGE-WELL industry partner.
AI will take an already vibrant online platform to a new level and ensure that “the right information is delivered at the right time to the right people,” says Mark Stolow, CEO of Huddol, a Montreal-based company.
“Huddol also has the capacity to be a one-stop shop that can be customized to your goals and needs, not just in your region but in your local community.”
“Layering on artificial intelligence allows caregivers to describe what they need in plain language rather than using technological or medical terms,” says Dr. Janet Fast, AGE-WELL investigator and project lead, a professor at the University of Alberta and a well-known researcher in caregiving. “Huddol also has the capacity to be a one-stop shop that can be customized to your goals and needs, not just in your region but in your local community.”
Thomson has been a caregiver since her son was born with severe disabilities 30 years ago. Seven years ago, she and her sister became co-caregivers for their mother, who is now 96. An author of several books and a consultant on caregiving, Thomson is a big supporter of Huddol, a site she visits “multiple times daily. I’m a teacher sometimes and I’m a learner lots of times,”
Lauber, who has written two books on caregivers, says:
“I find contributing to Huddol is very important and rewarding to me as I know, first-hand, how challenging and daunting caregiving can be. Huddol means ‘community’ to me—a community which provides free support, direction, encouragement and understanding to prospective, new and current caregivers.”