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It is estimated that over 40 million Americans currently provide care for an aging parent, spouse, aunt, uncle, friend or other loved one so that they can live independently at home. A majority of these caregivers are Boomers, and they devote, on average, 20 hours per week to providing unpaid care. Caregivers tend to be women, three-quarters of whom also have a job. The considerable time they commit to a loved one’s care means less time to spend on personal priorities and care, and this sacrifice often takes a considerable financial, physical and emotional toll.
Understanding the complexities of the caregiving role provides both healthcare and mainstream marketers with a basis for developing products, services, information and support to relieve the burdens caregivers face, as well as enhance the potential rewards involved in being a caregiver.
THE CHALLENGES FACING CAREGIVERS
One of the biggest challenges caregivers can face is in dealing with emotional stress. The range of negative emotions associated with caregiving is astoundingly broad and can include worry about a loved one’s future, guilt over not doing enough, and exhaustion from trying to balance home, work and caregiving, along with sadness, fear, resentment and isolation. Despite the considerable challenges, there can be an unexpected upside to caregiving, too, as relationships with parents or aging spouses can bring the caregiver and person receiving care closer than ever before.
HOW BRANDS CAN CONNECT WITH CAREGIVERS
As Boomers continue to age through their 50s, 60s and beyond, more will become caregivers and will need care themselves, ensuring that the caregiver market will grow rapidly for several decades.
Recent research identifies practical support most caregivers say would be beneficial, including: information about caregiver resources (88%); respite care (85%); assistance with chores (78%), transportation (78%), meals (77%) and managing medications (74%); connecting with other caregivers (72%); and time off from work for caregiving tasks (70%).
Some companies exist specifically to address these caregiver support needs. Examples include a service called Honor, which matches home care providers with clients and provides monitoring so that family members can keep track of the care a loved one is receiving; Lift Hero, an “Uber for seniors” that arranges transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments; and Mom’s Meals, which delivers home-cooked meals.
Other companies are leveraging their core competencies to develop new products and services or market existing ones to caregivers. One such company is Samsung, which has partnered with Partners HealthCare to develop the next generation of personalized digital and mobile health solutions that will help patients and caregivers effectively manage chronic conditions. Another is Road Scholar, which has a scholarship fund especially designed for caregivers to take "relief" trips.
Companies that don’t offer specific caregiving products or services can benefit from connecting with caregivers in other ways:
- Drive awareness of your product or service by marketing within media that caregivers rely on for information, resources and connection with other caregivers.
- Strengthen brand affinity through marketing efforts that reflect the caregiver experience and integrate your brand into their caregiving experience; for example, demonstrate how your product or service helps caregivers better care for themselves, or creates experiences that strengthen the bond between the caregiver and their loved one.
- Increase sales by providing money-saving opportunities specifically for caregivers.
- Generate positive press and public opinion by making donations to caregiver support organizations.
- Create brand ambassadors within your company by providing counseling services and/or time off for caregiver employees to deal with caregiving responsibilities.
Marketers seeking an opportunity to engage Boomers on a deeper level have a real and growing opportunity among the caregiver consumer segment. Brands that help caregivers alleviate stress, maintain their own lives and maximize the upside of caregiving will strike a deep chord that benefits both sides of the brand-consumer relationship.
If your company doesn’t have a caregiver marketing strategy, it may be time to start the conversation.