Health care communicators are underserving a rapidly expanding audience: caregivers.
Aging baby boomers, especially given the high cost of senior care living, are relying on tens of millions of people to assist them—many of them family members.
While the numbers vary widely—from 34.2 million to 65 million—there is a huge population of siblings, children and loved ones who provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend.
It’s easy to throw caregivers into one big group. Although many deal with stress and fatigue, their individual responses vary. The answers they need to cope with this tremendous responsibility vary, too.
A recent survey by Syneos Health Communications estimated that 43.5 million people provide unpaid care to adults. On average, caregivers devote around 41 hours a week to providing care to their loved ones. That’s more than a full-time job.
In the survey, 1,380 caregiver participants said hospitals don’t understand their journey, and neither do individual doctors and nurses. They describe themselves as being “drained” and “lost,” as well as “hopeless and lonely.” It’s a tough position to be in—one often overlooked in health care marketing.
What, as health care communicators, can we do with this information?
Create marketing and events aimed at caregivers
It may feel uncomfortable to put “caregivers” and “marketing” in the same sentence. Yet caregivers use search engines to find answers and support. Wouldn’t it be great if caregivers could find articles and information from you that could help make their lives easier?
Creating blogs and other content that help caregivers make decisions and find relief or support services to assist them is a huge benefit to offer. They’re as important to the patient journey as the patient, so don’t shy from creating content for them.
TV commercials, radio, billboards or magazine advertisements are also important. This audience is likely to engage as long as the ad speaks to them and their experience.
Your organization can it a step further by offering caregiver support through events and special spaces at your hospital. Finding ways to bring caregivers together enables them to share experiences and build relationships.
Mercy Cedar Rapids actually built family caregiving services into its medical service line. A web page for the center features services available to caregivers and families, including counseling, support groups, art therapy and more. It also features a tour of its comfortable, inviting caregiver center, and encourages those inspired by caregiving to donate to the Mercy foundation.
Choose images with thoughtfulness and context
According to the Syneos survey, caregivers view images with an emotional pull.
“Non-caregivers gave a superficial, very literal report of what they were seeing,” the survey states. “Caregivers, on the other hand, read more emotion into what they saw and projected their experience onto the imagery.”
Consider this photo:
A non-caregiver might describe it as, “holding hands with senior,” but a caregiver might describe it as, “a young person nurturing an older person.” As Syneos pointed out, caregivers project their experiences onto the content they read. Considering how they’ll interpret images is important when you choose them for the content you create.
Besides images in your content marketing, consider other graphic approaches to speaking to this audience. Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina, featured an article, “5 Stress Relief Tips for Caregivers,” along with a cheerful, easy-to-read infographic.
By building caregivers into the target audience of its content marketing hub, Wellness Matters, it captures opportunities to help this ever-important audience feel involved. Even an article about exercising with arthritis speaks to how caregivers can help.
Don’t hide the potential solutions
Like patients, caregivers are looking for answers and options. Because this often starts online, don’t hide the next steps. Lead them to a call to action that will make their life easier.
The Syneos survey also states that caregivers are “micro-influencers” for patients. More than 75% will influence when and how their loved one sees a medical professional, and nearly 70% of them will seek second opinions.
Leading a patient to conversion is one thing, but with this growing audience of caregivers, it’s essential that every piece of your marketing—even your physician profiles—helps them make decisions for family members who need care, especially when they are seeking that care from out of state.
As you develop content, include clear calls to action that speak to this audience. Whether they’re seeking the best medical supplies or finding a new doctor for a loved one, caregivers are part of the consumer funnel.