Healthcare service CareYaya expands to WFU

The local company matches pre-health students with families seeking affordable health care


Courtesy of CareYaya

The CareYaya startup team meets.

Hope Zhu, Staff Writer

CareYaya, an online healthcare service platform that connects families with affordable caregivers service, has recently expanded to Wake Forest.
“What we are carrying out is a health equity project that expands access to care for a lot of families,” Neal Shah, chief executive officer of CareYaya, said. “Hopefully, one day, it will become a model from here to across the nation.”
CareYaya formally launched the pilot test at Wake Forest in the Spring 2022 semester and is expecting 75-100 students from Wake Forest as they ramp up for Spring 2023.
When Shah was in his mid-30s, his wife was diagnosed with cancer, so he understands the hardship of caring for a loved one with a chronic disease.
Shah is not alone. In 2020, more than one in five Americans had provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months, and 19% are unpaid, according to The AARP Public Policy Institute. 26% of family caregivers have difficulty coordinating care, and racial minority caregivers, such as African Americans, report lower household incomes than their counterparts.
Shah’s plan to create a platform that matches students seeking careers in health care and families who urgently need elderly care started in the fall of 2020 when he co-founded CareYaya with Gavry Eshet, a graduate student of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) computer science department.
“It’s a new way of caregiving, ” said Shah. “There’s more quality control with written reviews, the scheduling is easier and the cost is more affordable. ”
The project was later accepted into a couple of startup accelerators at UNC, went through multiple rounds of software development and outreach and gained popularity as it expanded. According to The Daily Tar Heel, there were more than 1,500 student caregivers serving 500 families at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
Shah sees working through CareYaya as a win-win solution for both medical students and families who need care.
“The families love the service because, instead of paying a higher price to local care companies which many of them cannot afford, they could make appointments with great caregiver students whenever they need at an affordable rate,” Shah said. “For students, they would better understand the social determinants [of health] when they spend a few hours taking care of patients one-on-one in their house every week, compared to doing paperwork in the hospital.”
Roxy Garrity, the director of communications at CareYaya, echoed Shah that working for CareYaya is a valuable experience for students to build connections with local communities using their expertise.
“I saw first hand that my dad takes care of my grandmother while working at the same time,” Garrity said. “CareYaya would be a helpful resource for local residents at Winston-Salem who need care when their family is out of state.”
Under the support of CEO Emeritus John McConnell, CareYaya is collaborating with Wake Forest Baptist Health. Additionally, the healthcare service is working with Inmar Intelligence, a data platform company at Winston-Salem.
“A partnership with Wake Forest Baptist Health is very important because the faculty is on the forefront of research for diseases like dementia, which is often what we are working with,” Garrity said.
The CareYaya site is free to use for students and families, and it strives to maintain an hourly wage of around $15, paid directly from the families to student caregivers through cash, check or Venmo.
There are no minimum working hours required for students, as they can get notifications from the site about their potential clients and choose the amount of time commitment that works best for them. Certifications including a CNA license are not required for student caretakers, though they could be included as part of the application process.
While working for CareYaya is a chance to earn clinic hours for medical students, many services that they expect to provide are non-medical, including helping clients exercise, petsitting and cooking.
Megan Garrison, a Wake Forest graduate in the class of 2022, worked for CareYaya from January to May. She found giving care to elders simulates a warm relationship almost like family, and she enjoyed being paid for the service she is doing — which, for her, is about $55 for four hours a day including tips.
“Being an ear for them, listening and talking to them about their stories and reminiscing is incredibly important for their mental health and cognitive function,” Garrison said. “Small things like those actually improve the quality of life for those clients.”
Garrison also described her work with CareYaya as one of her top experiences in her medical school applications. She appreciates that the platform is still young, so caregivers and executives can try different directions with their services.
“In the end, you are helping someone in need, which is the real purpose of being a caregiver,” Garrison said.
If you want to learn more about CareYaya’s opportunities to be a caregiver or about seeking affordable care for someone you know, visit