Zubin Kapadia is the owner and CEO of Right at Home North Shore LI, a home care franchise in the New York City metropolitan area. When he acquired the company, he was immediately interested in starting a fund to support caregivers, a diverse population in terms of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

As a son of immigrant parents, Zubin is familiar with sacrifice and hard work and views his company as a journey that’s come full circle. His work experience has centered on healthcare, having worked at Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Baycrest, and Hospital for Special Surgery. When considering how to leverage his knowledge and experience from these leading academic medical centers, he decided upon a grassroots care delivery opportunity where he could engage in more direct client care.

Today, I sat down with Zubin to talk about his Caregivers Advancement Fund (CAF), which stems from his desire to give back to a community of compassionate people who are one of the greatest gifts to our seniors.

Please tell us about the Caregivers Advancement Fund and why you started it.

The Caregivers Advancement Fund (CAF) is a charitable entity that distributes grants and interest-free microloans to caregivers and their families in the New York City area. I launched it in April 2021 for the purpose of assisting frontline workers in home care who are seeking to advance their careers and continue providing essential healthcare services to our local communities.

How many at-home caregivers does your company have? Do share any demographic information also. What do you believe will be the impact for them?

We have about 110 active caregivers today, 98% of whom are women and 75% first-generation immigrants. The largest immigrant group in our organization is from Jamaica (36%), followed by Haiti (15%), Guyana (10%), Trinidad (4%), and India (3%).

It’s very interesting that many of these individuals come from multi-generational households, which typically have two income earners, each of whom are working multiple jobs while also caring for their parents and children—all living under the same roof. Often, they also send money back to their home country to support extended family.

The pressures on them are intense—economic, social, psychological, and those of integrating into a new country. Relatively small events like car trouble can have a disproportionate impact on their ability to continue working, studying, or caring for their families.

I hope that the CAF, in some small way, will help caregivers “get back on their feet” after such events, stay productive, and remove some stress from their lives. Furthermore, by providing grants for higher learning and continuing education, I hope that the CAF will encourage our caregivers to advance their careers. 

Can you describe the model / structure of your fund and the benefits of this model?

The CAF is structured as a “pass-through fund” of the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan, a 501(c)(3) corporation. Some awards such as scholarships will be distributed exclusively in the form of grants (non-repayable), while others, such as emergent needs, will be distributed as grant/loan combinations.

The purpose of the hybrid structure is to create an “evergreen” model so that the fund can perpetually grow, especially in the early years when the corpus is small. With some portion of the funds being repaid, I hope to impact more lives over a shorter period of time than would otherwise be possible if all distributions were in the form of straight grants.

Time will tell how successful this model is, but we’re excited about it because it’s novel and we hope it will attract more caregivers to avail of the funds. We believe that caregivers may be reluctant to take money directly, as it could be perceived as a “handout”—but they may be more likely to access funds if they are responsible for repaying some portion and further contributing to the pipeline of future grants.

How has COVID created an even greater burden for caregivers?

COVID has impacted our caregivers in many ways—some have contracted the virus and been unable to work as a result, and others have been exposed and forced to quarantine, despite not having symptoms. In all of those cases, we have continued to pay their salaries under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), but the impact is broader. For instance, additional medical bills; childcare or adult daycare expenses; and the need to rely on family and friends to provide essential needs such as meals, transportation, etc.

COVID had a disproportionate impact on low-income workers, people of color, and those in the inner cities, and therefore, on the caregiving population. Moreover, unlike other industries where work can be done remotely, caregiving can only be done in person. You can’t say, “I’m going to take care of you over the phone.” You literally have to be there. Throughout the pandemic, caregivers have had to overcome their fears, get repeated testing, wear PPE, and overcome the objections of some clients to perform their jobs.

Can you share a story that reflects why giving back to caregivers is so important to you?

Ms. Adekunbi Ojo is a first-generation immigrant from Nigeria who came to the United States in 2001. She learned early on that caregiving was a field that came naturally to her and began working as a development support specialist for AHRC, an organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New York City. 

In 2010, Ms. Ojo joined Right at Home North Shore LI, which provides home care services in the NY Metropolitan area, and in 2019, she enrolled in a course to become a licensed Personal Care Aide (PCA), which allowed her to take on more advanced cases involving the personal care and safety of homebound seniors. In April 2021, Right at Home promoted Ms. Ojo to Care Team Leader, a new role created to oversee and support the entire caregiver staff.

People like Ms. Ojo inspire me to give back to the caregiver community, which is a reason I decided to create the CAF. Caregivers deserve this kind of support because this field can be so challenging, but also because they genuinely love this kind of work. And isn’t that a blessing for our seniors—knowing there are compassionate caregivers ready and willing to help them on a daily basis? Where would our seniors be without at-home caregiving? That’s why this fund is so important.

What short-term or long-term goals have you set for this fund?

We have launched the fund with a corpus of about $10,000. Within the next several years, we hope to reach $100,000 or more. In the short term, we hope to provide support for emergent needs that may impact a caregiver’s ability to stay productive and earn income. In the long term, the fund will support continuing education and higher education goals of caregivers and their children.

Some of the metrics we will use to determine success and impact are number of caregivers supported, number and size of gifts, total dollar amounts awarded across the three areas of support (Emergency Aid, Continuing Education, Scholarships), and the economic and non-economic impact of gifts.

My view is that donors are more likely to support a fund like this if they know it’s having an impact and if they know it’s having reach. The fund has the potential to ease the level of stress for a caregiver, which in turn means more consistent and reliable at-home care services for seniors. Traveling to facilities for daily care and programming isn’t always feasible for seniors, so at-home care is a highly valuable service in our society.

My vision is to create an organization where I can help seniors age safely and joyfully in place while saving the system money and creating sustainable jobs for caregivers that offer the potential for growth.

Caregiving isn’t a glamorous career. Those who get involved are passionate, dedicated, loving people who enjoy helping others and truly believe that this is their calling. It’s more than a job to them. That’s why I want to provide meaningful opportunities that will make meaningful differences in the lives of caregivers, their families, and their patients.

What can people do to help?

There are a number of ways that people can contribute to the CAF. 

First, in terms of fundraising, our goal is to reach $25,000 by year-end 2021. To help us get there, you can contribute with a one-time or recurring contribution:

Secondly, we welcome contributions in the way of support for marketing and raising awareness for the fund. Third, we welcome those who would like to participate in the fund as advocates or “Ambassadors.” These individuals would help host events, introduce us to potential donors, and play an ongoing advocacy role. If you have interest in any of these areas, please contact me at [email protected].