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Posts in ‘Caregivers’

Using Telehealth to Support Rural Caregivers

Dec 04

The physical, emotional and financial toll to caregivers is extensive. A conservative estimate reports that 20% of family caregivers suffer from depression, twice the rate of the general population. In response, a variety of caregiver support programs have been developed. However, rural caregivers continue to bear much of the burden alone.

Rural caregivers confront unique challenges, above and beyond the normal stresses of caregiving. They spend significant time and funds just traveling to care for their loved one. 60% of rural caregivers drive up to an hour to check on their loved one. Routine medical appointments and referrals to specialists at major hospitals add to the challenge. Outside of major cities, public transportation is often nonexistent or unreliable. According to one study, rural patients travel an average of 22 miles for care.

Geographical and financial obstacles combine with social barriers to further complicate outreach efforts to rural caregivers. Studies show that traditional attitudes can impede outside efforts to provide rural caregivers with needed support. These perceptions may include strong tendencies toward self-reliance, turning to local institutions, neighbors and church community during times of crisis, skepticism and distrust of the intentions and social sensitivity of providers who live outside the immediate area.

However telehealth is proving a promising new method of overcoming isolation, providing caregiver support and improving patient quality of life. In a first of its kind, randomized 12-week clinical trial, rural caregivers who received telehealth-based caregiver training showed lower rates of depression, better  self-care and improvement in their ability to identify and solve specific problems related to caregiving (e.g. responding to disturbing patient behaviors, controlling upsetting thoughts, etc).

The benefits of telehealth go far beyond caregiver support. Telehealth interventions are proving to be a transformative technology for patients, healthcare workers, insures, employers and hospitals, especially in rural areas. In a future edition of this blog, we will discuss the effectiveness of telehealth in reducing medication errors, improving patient outcomes and overcoming many of the unique challenges that rural hospitals face.

Mature Marketing, Caring for the Rural Elderly

Nov 12

Aging has never been easy, but aging in rural America is particularly challenging. According to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, seniors in rural areas together with their healthcare providers and family caregivers face greater challenges than their urban counterparts.

In addition to the usual challenges of chronic disease and functional decline, the rural elderly are geographically isolated. They have to travel long distances to seek care, made more difficult by the fact that many can no longer drive and there is a lack of available or reliable public transportation. These issues contribute to their tendency to delay seeking care, which aggravates health problems and leads to more complicated, lengthy and expensive interventions when they finally do receive medical attention. Rural primary care physicians and rural hospitals are struggling to meet the demand.

Fear of medical expense is another deterrent. The elderly in the rurals are more likely to be poor. Lower lifetime earnings result in lower Social Security benefits, which are less likely to be supplemented by private pensions or part-time work. In a study of elderly patients with osteoarthritis, fear of the cost of care was often greater than their concern for the severity of their physical symptoms.

Because long-term care agencies, adult day care and assisted living are more plentiful in cities, family caregivers in the rural areas spend almost 20% more time providing care. With limited access to formal long-term care services, these caregivers often shoulder the responsibility of providing transportation, meals, grocery shopping and hands-on care without support.

Telemedicine is increasingly being considered as a means to increase access to care, lower medical costs and overcome the isolation of the rural elderly and their caregivers. Future editions of this blog will cover the issues, opportunities and latest developments in the fields of telehealth and telemedicine.  We invite you to join the discussion.

Caregiving, Don’t Go It Alone

Oct 09

Caring for an aging loved one, while rewarding on many levels, can also be both an emotionally-trying and time-consuming experience. Many first-time caregivers find themselves unprepared for the enormity of what lies ahead.  Many caregivers are spouses, some with their own health issues. Others are daughters and sons, over 60% of whom are trying to juggle caregiving while holding down a job. Women are especially affected. It is estimated 89% of women will be caregivers and in addition to caring for their children, they are likely to spend 18 years helping elderly loved ones.

Not only can caregiving be overwhelming, it can also be an isolating experience. Fortunately help is available. We recently sat down with Lisa Huening an eldercare coach and resource specialist for adult children of aging parents. Her company, The Shifting Path, provides caregivers with tools, programs, solutions and emotional support as they navigate the complex world of healthcare, insurance, financial planning, legal issues, aging in place and senior housing.

Statistics show that an increasing number of well-educated Americans are generally delaying marriage and childbirth.  Lisa observed that several of her clients are caring for a parent while raising 12 and 13 year old children of their own. Others are struggling with challenges of long-distance caregiving. Having dealt with these situations in her life, Lisa decided to use the expertise she’d gained helping others find, organize and access needed resources and eldercare services, many of which are often hidden in plain sight within local communities.

Caregiving is often chaotic and unpredictable. Your loved one’s needs grow more complex and you must make difficult, often emotional decisions. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.

Mature Marketing, The Caregiver Marketplace

May 23

Family caregivers are a vital and growing, but often overlooked marketplace. There are approximately 66 million caregivers performing a variety of tasks and making any number of purchasing decisions, ranging from buying food for special diets to shopping for medical equipment and supplies to arranging for outside care.

A recent survey revealed that caregivers spend on average anywhere from $5,000-$12,000 annually out of their own pockets caring for loved ones. Some participants in the survey were asked to keep detailed spending diaries, others simply estimated their expenses. Those who kept written diaries reported much higher levels of spending which may suggest that caregivers are underestimating the amount and the frequency of the purchases they make on behalf of their loved ones.

The largest categories of caregiver spending varied between paid home care assistance and medical expenses. The medical expense category included prescription and OTC drugs, co-pays and insurance premiums. Other categories tracked in the study were medical equipment and supplies, personal care products and home modifications. Caregivers also report purchasing cleaning and yard maintenance services and pet care products and services.  Given the levels and frequency of caregiver spending, marketers offering these products should strongly consider adding caregivers to their target audience.

Not only are caregivers major buyers but they are also key influencers in healthcare purchase decisions. A study by The Caregiver’s Advisory Panel (TCAP) discovered that 96% of caregivers influence decisions regarding the purchase of caregiving health products, and 79% of caregivers purchase all or nearly all of those products. In our experience, caregivers are also very influential in the purchase of a host of financial products and services including long term care insurance, life insurance, Medicare supplement insurance and related products.

Caregiver marketing is rewarding yet challenging, in large part because caregivers are not easily identified. In a future edition of this blog we will discuss caregiver targeting in greater detail. Please join the discussion.

Mature Marketing, Reaching Male Caregivers

May 15

As discussed in our last post, a growing number of men are assuming caregiver responsibilities. However, many marketers of products and services geared to the mature market still exclusively focus their messaging on a female target audience.  However, as we conducted proprietary research for our client, Always Best Care, we uncovered a pent-up demand for messaging that would resonate specifically to with male caregivers.

Always Best Care Senior Services provides both non-medical in-home care and assisted living placement services.  In preparation for a new TV campaign, we conducted a series of in-depth one-on-one interviews with Always Best Care customers. We noticed in the interviews that male caregivers described their needs, experiences, concerns, reactions and approach to caregiving differently from women.

Larger research studies confirm these findings. Male caregivers are more likely to be working fulltime, more likely to live farther away and less comfortable providing hands-on, intimate and personal care such as bathing and toileting.  In her book Passages into Caregiving, Gail Sheehy summarizes two years of research and hundreds of interviews that prove these insights. She found men more commonly take on executive tasks like managing finances, legal and insurance issues.

Men are also much less likely to be caregivers for a person over the age of 50. When the person receiving care is aged 18-49, 47% of caregivers are male.  However if the person receiving care is over age 50, the caregiver gender balance shifts to 68% female, and only 32% male.

These factors contribute to why more men than women tend to employ outside, paid, professional help such as the services that Always Best Care provides. Male caregivers actually use paid assistance at a rate of 40%. And among caregivers of people over 50, it’s the men who are more likely to actually arrange for that help.

So in this case a senior services company targeting only women would actually miss the mark. At Bodden Partners we recognize the need to look beyond stereotypes and understand the needs and nuances in your audience in order to create effective marketing communications.

Mature Marketing, a Look at Male Caregivers

May 10

Baby Boomer Male CaregiverIn recent editions of this Mature Marketing blog, we have been discussing the vital role of caregivers and why marketers need to effectively communicate with them.

The face of caregiving is changing. While the typical caregiver is still female, a third of all caregivers are male. The number of men caring for an older adult has doubled in the past 15 years. There are a number of societal and demographic factors behind this growing trend. One of these is that more families are having fewer children which eventually results in more sons becoming responsible for parental care.  Divorce also increases the odds that a son will become responsible for the care of his aged parents.

Another factor leading to an increase in male caregivers is the increase in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. As more baby boomers become seniors, incidence is expected to rapidly increase. Risk doubles for every five years in age after age 65. Twice as many people have Alzheimer’s today as in 1980 and the rate is expected to double by 2050 to an estimated 16 million adults. Because Alzheimer’s affects women more than men, more husbands are becoming spousal caregivers.

Male caregivers share the same level of devotion to their loved ones as female caregivers. However, a number of studies and experts in the field have identified several key areas in which the caregiving experience is different for men:

  • Older men came of age before the cultural shift in gender roles. Therefore they tend to be less prepared or more uncomfortable with household tasks such as cleaning and cooking and altering recipes to accommodate medical conditions.
  • Sons are also less likely to be involved in the more intimate, personal care such as bathing and toileting. If they do perform these tasks, they tend to provide such care to fathers, rather than mothers.
  • More men are long distance caregivers, as a result they have to travel further or spend more time organizing care from a distance.
  • Male caregivers are much more likely to be working full time (82% vs 70% of female caregivers). Yet men are less likely to seek support from their employers or co-workers. They are less likely to make accommodations in their work schedule or responsibilities.

How can product and service providers, healthcare professionals and marketers effectively support male caregivers? What product development opportunities exist by segment (i.e. long distance caregivers, younger male caregivers, older male caregivers, working professionals, etc)?  In future editions of this blog, we will discuss these and other caregiving topics. We invite you to join the conversation.

Mature Marketing, a Look at Caregiver Spending

Apr 29

In our last post, we shared findings from a telephone survey showing that, on average, caregivers estimate that they spend over $5,000 a year out of their own pockets in order to care for their loved ones. Of course, no two situations are exactly alike and therefore this amount can vary widely depending on circumstances, the health of the loved one being cared for and living arrangements. Long-distance caregivers reported the highest expenses ($8,728) and those who were caring for someone nearby had the lowest ($4,570). Caregivers who lived in the same home with the care recipient estimated an average annual expense of $5,885.

Actually, getting a firm handle on just how much is being spent by family members and friends in a caregiving role is difficult to estimate. Caregiving is usually considered a labor of love and caregivers may be reluctant to think in terms of dollars and cents. How does one put a price on what is often seen as a moral obligation?

Even so, real money is being spent every day by the 66 million caregivers across this nation. As is true with other types of expenses, when we actually track our spending, the results can surprise us. The same was true in this survey. When a small portion of people agreed to detailed expense tracking, the actual dollars spent were much higher than what others had merely estimated –an average $1,029 in just one month. This put them on track to spend over $12,000 a year, almost two and a half times what the other group had estimated.

Are most caregivers underestimating their spending? What are the implications and financial repercussions of these unplanned expenses? Where is the money going? What are caregivers buying? Where do they go to learn about products and services to help them care for their loved ones? As marketers, how can we make sure we are offering caregivers the products and value they need to make the most of their money? These and other issues will be discussed in upcoming posts in the Mature Marketing series. We invite you to stay tuned and join the discussion with your own experiences and observations.

Mature Marketing, a Look at Caregivers

Apr 24

In our first installment of the new blog series, Mature Marketing, we’re taking a closer look at who are the primary caregivers in this country. The term caregiver refers to anyone who provides assistance to someone else who is incapacitated and needs help. The National Center on Caregiving describes “informal caregiving” (that is, the care provided to a person in need by a family member or friend rather than a paid care worker) as the bedrock of the U.S. healthcare system. One third of caregivers are providing care to two or more people.

Although one profile does not fit all caregivers, in most cases caregivers are female. Although men also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers. Future installments of this blog will discuss male caregivers in greater detail.

Caregivers are in market for a host of goods, services and information to help them in their caregiving role. On average, caregivers spend $5,000 out of pocket on household goods, food, transportation costs and medical care co-pays and pharmaceuticals. Marketers of healthcare and personal products can gain significant market share by deepening their understanding of the needs, concerns, interest and behaviors of caregivers.

Respect your elders, and those who care for them

Apr 16

For the past few months, the Bodden Partners blog has been examining the mindset, concerns and behaviors of mature consumer. With this article, we are expanding the series to gain a deeper understanding into the role and impact caregiving has on the needs of both the caregiver and the recipient.

According to, 65% of older people with long term care needs rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance. There are an estimated 65.7 million family caregivers in the U.S. Who are these caregivers? What challenges do they face? What motivates them? What needs do they have for products, services and information? How should these insights affect marketers targeting mature consumers? These and related topics will be discussed in future editions of the BP blog. We hope you enjoy the series and find it useful. We invite your reactions, opinions and personal experiences.