Apps help smartphone users pay bills, schedule appointments, and look for romance anytime, anywhere. Now, a Boston-based app wants to help people make end-of-life decisions with the same convenience.
Cake, an app collaborating with Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s innovation hub, attempts to simplify end-of-life planning by asking questions about anything from financial planning to whether or not you want the plug pulled on your Facebook once you’re not around to update your status. Suelin Chen, one of Cake’s founders, wants the app to get people talking about a tough topic and help them record their wishes and share them with the necessary people.
Basically, she wants to make the whole process a piece of Cake.
“Advanced care planning is one the biggest critical needs in healthcare today,” Chen told Boston.com. “It’s hard for us to talk about mortality, and right now, the only tools out there feel like a chore or something you dread bringing up. There should be better tools to help people talk about this.”
That’s where Cake’s mobile aspect comes into play. For those moments when you’re lying awake at night having an existential crisis or waiting in a doctor’s office and contemplating the inevitable end, Cake provides an easy way to record your dying wishes as you realize them, Chen said.
So, do you want to be buried or cremated? And what song should be played at your funeral? You can answer all of these with Cake.
“Sometimes you’ll be on a bus, and you’ll hear a song and think, ‘I love that song. That’s the song I want to be played at my funeral,’” said Chen, who has spent her career in the healthcare field as a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and later as a healthcare consultant.
Before Cake, a thought like that might be forgotten, or never expressed to loved ones who could make it happen, Chen explained.
Cake underwent its first round of beta testing, and is in a second round of private testing before it becomes available to the public. It’s a MassChallenge, a Boston-based startup accelerator, finalist this year.
The app is free, but will charge $100 for an advanced concierge service that connects users to someone who can guide them through the process. For now, Chen said, the concierge is free for those participating in the beta test.
The app, even with the assistance of a concierge, isn’t meant to take the place of an estate attorney or other legal proceedings that follow death, but instead to help facilitate conversation with loved ones, doctors, and attorneys, Chen said. It also fills the gap for those aspects of death that aren’t brought up in legal proceedings, like what kind of food want everyone to eat in your memory.
“If you want pizza at your funeral, you can say that and hopefully your loved ones will honor that,” she said. “What my colleagues see all the time is all this conflict where a person will say one thing to one person and a different thing to another and family members disagree about what to do.”
Make sure you’re clear on the app so your loved ones don’t have to argue: no anchovies on the pizza.