The Caregiving Crisis: a conversation with Cindy Diogo-Kociuba

Apr 5, 2024

Silvia de Denaro Vieira

In today's fast-paced world, the role of caregivers often goes unrecognized despite its profound impact on individuals and society. Silvia and Cindy dive deep into the heart of this issue, shedding light on the inspiration behind ConSoul, a groundbreaking wellness platform designed to support family caregivers. Drawing from their personal experiences caring for terminally ill loved ones, Cindy and her co-founder embarked on a mission to create a digital village around caregivers, providing them with the resources and assistance they need to navigate their challenging roles.

Silvia: Thanks so much for joining us, Cindy! Could you start by sharing what ConSoul is and what the inspiration behind it was?
Cindy: ConSoul is a wellness platform. We provide services primarily to family or unpaid caregivers. The platform really focuses on providing resources, learning, and particular tangible services for caregivers to prevent their burnout. Anything really from sending cleaning services to someone's home, right up to scheduling some time that they can take for themselves when they are taking care. A caregiver could be anyone from a new mom providing care for a new baby, all the way to someone who might be providing support to an aging loved one. So everything in between. 

The idea for this came about because myself and my co-founder both had experiences being caregivers to terminally-ill loved ones. A couple years ago, unfortunately, my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and we were in a capacity to really provide that support. My co-founder, unfortunately, just six months after she had been married, her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. This was during the pandemic when being able to come together as a family unit and provide support wasn't really an option. 

We created ConSoul with the premise that we really want to create a digital village around the caregiver so that everybody, including their family and friends, can provide support to them and really alleviate some of that burden on that primary family caregiver at home.

Silvia: Thank you for sharing that. Those are such powerful founding stories and you've clearly both felt deeply the pain that you're solving for and obviously, despite the grief and loss that comes with that, you're really channeling that through addressing some issues that other people might be experiencing.

You’ve talked before about the caregiving crisis. Can you expand on that? What is it, why should we care about it, and who is being affected by this?

Cindy: Yeah, absolutely. I came across a recording from this year's World Economic Forum that encapsulated just how devastating caregiving can be on women in particular. The statistic they were talking about was that currently there are 606 million women who are of working age, who are completely out of the workforce because of their caregiving responsibilities. 

We know globally, and especially in North America, we have a caregiving crisis. Our healthcare systems are inundated, and it's putting pressure on family caregivers. So what's happening is that the people who take on caregiving in the home, which are primarily women, are leaving the workplace. Strictly from an economic perspective, it's costing the nine trillion in GDP loss globally. So from a financial perspective, of course, it's quite devastating. 

But when we think about women's careers, and this is one of the reasons we're so passionate about making sure these types of tools are in the workplace, is that older women tend to be the most economically disadvantaged in their old age. This is because throughout their career, they've taken time off to provide care. So globally, we’ve got a cohort of an aging population and women who are about to have to leave their careers to provide that care because our health care systems are so stretched.

Silvia: Wow, it's crazy when you stop to think about it, especially because today in 2024 we kind of assume we're past some of these major gender gaps in the workplace. What you're highlighting here is that there are actually a lot of things that happen outside of the workplace that are directly impacting what women are able to achieve during their lifetimes. If there was one thing that you could tell all employers or HR leaders out there that you wish they knew about caregivers?

Cindy: My background is in Human Resources and recruitment. I've spent almost 20 years in attracting and hearing what people are looking for in benefits and what makes a good employer. The one piece of content that we've all been sharing in the HR world is hiring for the whole person.

This is an idea where you're not just hiring a worker for their skills. You're not just hiring Cindy as the Finance Director. You're hiring Cindy as the whole human being. So being able to really understand who the person is outside of the workplace is going to be so critical in the upcoming years because we really do have to cater our benefits and make them bespoke given who our employees are moving forward. Having an understanding and an acknowledgement that someone has responsibilities outside of the workplace and acknowledging how we can support our employees, is going to be really quite critical in thinking about what kind of benefits we could put into the workplace that's going to support this whole human being that we've hired.

Silvia: I love that. I think the pandemic has really pushed us to reckon with this reality, right? Whereas before we had a lot more separation between home and work. Now we can't ignore this whole human being anymore. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I've learned so much from you and I can't wait to see where you take ConSoul.

Cindy: Yeah, I'm so excited to continue this journey with you, too. Thank you for having me.

Consoul connects Canadian caregivers to the resources and support they need to prevent burnout. Our mission is to help alleviate caregiver burnout.