CareZips Creator Shares Her Story
CareZips® by Joe & Bella is Making Dressing Easier
In 2014, Molly Dye launched a revolutionary pant to help her mother who was living in a memory-care community. Since then, CareZips has helped countless adults facing incontinence and mobility limitations. This past year, Joe & Bella acquired the exclusive rights to CareZips, and along with Molly, will be releasing two updated and upgraded versions – CareZips Classic and CareZips Luxe.
You can order CareZips Classic here.
I spoke with Molly about CareZips and how she created it.
Beginnings of CareZips
Ben: Can you share just a little bit of your personal and caregiving background? How did that journey lead you to creating CareZips?
Molly: My mother was dying of Alzheimer's. And during that journey, I realized I needed to learn how to change her adult briefs. So, I asked her caregiver if I could watch; I saw my mother grimacing, not from pain -- but just from the indignity of the process of being changed. The caregiver needed to roll her from side-to-side for the changing of the briefs. I instantly realized, with tears rolling down my cheeks, this was so hard for the caregiver and so difficult for my mother; there simply had to be another way.
For the last 35 or 40 years, I spent my career in government relations, in various capacities. But in high school and college, I spent a lot of time sewing, designing, learning how to create clothing and how textiles work. And so here we are years later, I pulled out that 40-year-old sewing machine and turned our dining room into a sewing room and went at it. After about 15 prototypes, it took two years to get the first CareZips ready to go. It was a real tribute to my mother, because she and I enjoyed sewing together; we enjoyed fabric selection, and playing with fashion. So, this was a real tribute to her.
Helping Someone Change Clothes is Difficult
Ben: Do you remember roughly how long it took to change your mother's pants with the caregiver helping?
Molly: It could range based on who was providing care each time. But it could get up to five minutes.
Ben: And she's lying on a bed when this is happening?
Molly: Yes - exactly.
Ben: And did you ever talk to your mom about the dressing process? Was she able to express how she felt about this?
Molly: Unfortunately, no. She passed away at Christmas time in 2013 just before our launch. She was beyond the point of that type of communication. But I could read her face. I could see the grimacing from the indignity of it all. It was the rolling of her body that was especially difficult for her.
Ben: How often she did she have to go through that each day?
Molly: It could have been as many as eight times, which is a lot. Incontinence is a huge issue within senior care, both medically and physically. It is singularly what drives most people into some sort of assisted living. And the changing of an adult brief is a labor-intensive situation, only made worse since the pandemic. As a country we're short on caregivers – a job that’s often a labor of love and not for the faint hearted.
Ben: What is that experience like for a caregiver to go through this process eight times a day with a single patient? I bet that even could impact the relationship built between care partners.
Molly: For many in care communities, they get changed by multiple people, so it can be a new experience each time. If you are fortunate enough to have one caregiver for life, then the relationship should be good. Physically, on the other hand, it's tough. There's a lot of back strain for the caregiver. You're pulling, lifting, and tugging. It's quite difficult. Sometimes caregivers are older and more often female than male with less muscle.
Ben: When you first understood this huge challenge that your mom and her caregivers were going through and thought about finding a better solution, what led you from Point A, identifying the problem, to point B, breaking out the sewing machine.
Molly: Oh, gosh. It was so intense for me watching this process. And it only took one time. I walked out and was able to visualize my idea: that if the pants would open fully – from the waist to the knees; the process would be easier. it would be an enormous relief for both the caregiver and the recipient. I remember walking down the hall of my mom's memory-care community, and noticed a really well-dressed older gentleman sitting upright in the wheelchair. He was wearing a button-down collared dress shirt, pleated trousers, belt, socks and shoes. But his fly was wide open and his shirt tail was pulled through. I understood what was happening. The caregiver was struggling. The care recipient may have been getting fidgety or even agitated. That happens a lot, particularly in the case of Alzheimer's. I know most caregivers try their best. But this man was left in this undignified position, and I found that heartbreaking.
About four weeks later, I continued to think about the idea and realized that I had to do something. I can't just sit back. This idea could actually work. Now to fully address your question: it did take two years to get the prototype done and finalized. But I was working other jobs. I was getting up at 5 a.m. to sew before my day job. It took about 15 different versions. With each one I would try it on her, my mother, and then pass it around to see if others could use it. We tried almost everything. We tried Velcro. We tried big, fat adult snaps. None of it worked as well as the zippers.
CareZips Prototypes and Development
Ben: What were some of those first versions like compared to how it ended up?
Molly: They were too big. One early version looked like pantaloons. That version didn't work: they were too billowy and I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to wear it. There was just too much fabric which increased our costs too much. The adult snaps were too hard to use. We tried adding in a drawstring. That was acceptable. But for some, it was another feature that was too challenging and required fine motor skills. However, when we added in the elastic waistband and the two snaps on both sides, that worked like a charm.
Ben: How did you move from those early prototypes to the final version that you ended up selling online?
Molly: I consulted with two expert seamstresses. One figured out how to mechanically add the third, interior zipper, and that did the trick.
Who is CareZips For?
Ben: What kind of individuals benefit the most from CareZips?
Molly: People living with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or really any type of dementia. People in wheelchairs may be the best use case. Individuals who are living with incontinence, but they still want to be outdoors and away from home. They want to go to restaurants and lead a social life. But they might just need a quick change in a bathroom. And this way they can handle things easily without a lot of trouble. Some could change their incontinence products by themselves in a public bathroom stall while keeping on their shoes and pants. I also think about arthritis and arthritic pain. The less hand manipulation that's needed, the better off they are. And having that third zipper with a pull makes all the difference in the world. The third zipper is the key. Also, I should not forget people who have post-surgical situations, such as a hip replacement, would benefit from wearing CareZips for the first few weeks. What a difference these pants will make.
Ben: I spoke with a gentleman who called Joe & Bella's customer service a couple of months ago, looking for some product advice. He's in a wheelchair and struggles changing his incontinence products. He was embarrassed to call and talk about his physical challenges but described the ordeal he has to go through at work. He has an office job and uses bathroom stalls that are relatively small. He must squeeze into a bathroom stall, take off his shoes and his pants, carefully hanging them so they don't touch anything around him. He talked about how miserable it is each time and how long it takes. He ended up buying a pair of the original CareZips and called back to let me know that CareZips drastically improved his experience going to the bathroom. It was so much easier to keep himself clean and change in a much simpler way while essentially keeping his pants on and not taking his shoes off.
Molly: I haven't touched on the shoe aspect much yet. But yes, oftentimes adults must take their shoes off in order to change incontinence products when wearing traditional pants. What a pain, but with CareZips, you can leave them on and save that time.
Customer Feedback for CareZips
Ben: What feedback have you received from CareZips customers?
Molly: All of feedback has been great. In fact, customers were clamoring for more versions of CareZips Often they wanted more choices in colors. In terms of feedback from the medical community, the nurses and caregivers who worked with patients who wore CareZips, were impressed Many actually told me, “Wow, that's just brilliant. Why didn't I think of this?” So, I felt great about that. You can see the “wow” in their eyes. We have a British distributor who emailed to let me know their subsidiaries can't wait to see the details of the new version. They are thrilled with the redesign.
The Relaunch: CareZips by Joe & Bella
Ben: You've been spending years developing this product. Then you spend a whole bunch of time building your website, distributing it to other ecommerce sites. You've gotten all this great feedback, and now you and CareZips are entering a new phase by joining with Joe & Bella on the redesign. What led you to partner with Joe & Bella on this relaunch?
Molly: CareZips was doing really well, and I was ready to find a way to grow the business beyond its current size. The pandemic was causing a slowdown in production, and I was running out of inventory. I needed to get more made, and the current manufacturer had to change their business priorities during the pandemic. I went to North Carolina to find a new manufacturer. I went to Massachusetts. I went to California. I had multiple phone calls. Manufacturing textiles in the US is getting particularly expensive. I decided to call Joe & Bella and see if they could help get CareZips back in production. The Joe & Bella team were so excited to hear from me and said that yes, they can find a new manufacturer. They were also interested in bringing in a new design team to update CareZips. And so, I said, “That's wonderful. Let's do it!” That was six months ago. We've made great progress in that six-month period, so I'm quite pleased with what Joe & Bella has done.
Ben: What's changing from the original version of CareZips compared to CareZips Classic by Joe & Bella, which is coming out this summer?
Molly: A better zipper with a much longer zipper pull. That's a key new feature. Now, those arthritic hands don't have to fumble for the zipper: they've got more grasp, which makes all the difference. The waistband is a bit sturdier with quality snaps. The fit is going to be different too, with a more tapered leg, making it more stylish. The fabric will have more spandex and feels softer. CareZips now looks and feels like a regular pair of athletic pants. They're more durable, so their lifespan has been improved.
There is now also going to be a "luxe" version of CareZips. This pair will have pockets and a mock fly. They'll look like pants you can wear to work or to a restaurant. And the Classics are comfortable enough to even wear as pajamas without looking like pajamas.
Ben: What do you think about these new versions?
Molly: I'm thrilled. They look a bit more tailored, a bit more refined, a bit more dignified. Stylish. And the fact that we increased the amount of spandex is going to be valuable. I really think people enjoy that. The feel is soft and they're really attractive.
Ben: What's in store for the next six or so months for CareZips?
Molly: CareZips Classic is coming out early this summer and the Luxe will arrive a month or so after that. At the moment, we're trying to get the word out to all kinds of people, mostly online and through social media, so folks know that these pants are on the way. We're awfully excited.