Caregivers need care too…

By Pam McDonald

For most of us the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are stressful, what with the shopping, cooking, and visiting with people we see at no other time of the year. Now imagine how much greater holiday pressure is for family caregivers — those who care for aging parents or loved ones, particularly when they need help with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs).  

That group, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, consists of 30% of the U.S. workforce or roughly 47 million American workers juggling their employment with caregiving and their other responsibilities. No wonder MetLife reports that as many as 62% of family caregivers have to leave work early, take a leave of absence, cut back to part time, or make some other workplace accommodation to meet the demands of caregiving.

Even without holiday-induced stress, notes MetLife, working caregivers are significantly more likely to report depression, diabetes, hypertension or pulmonary disease, regardless of their age, gender or type of work. Among working women caregivers age 50+, 17% reported poor health compared to 9% of non-caregivers.

Clearly, overly stressed caregivers need some TLC themselves, especially around the holidays, which creates an opportunity for assisted living and memory care providers, says Paul Flowers, President of Circa 46, an advertising agency with a speciality in senior living and a Senior Housing Forum partner.

Caregivers Need Care, Too

Paul recommends reaching out to adult caregivers by conducting seminars or clinics that combine education with support, and introduce tools family caregivers can use to take better care of themselves. Education might include discussion about the stress caregivers feel during the holidays, and support may range from encouragement offered by the clinic leader and other hosts to tips from other caregivers who are dealing with the same issues.

The following is Paul’s advice for structuring these “Caring for the Caregiver” clinics:

  • No matter where your community is located, there are local experts who can be brought in to craft and conduct the clinics. If you have someone on your staff who can lead the clinic, even better!  

  • Stage the clinic onsite. It allows you to raise awareness of your community with caregivers. Give tours to present what your community can offer their loved ones. “There is probably no other time of year,” Paul states, “when caregivers will be more open to the idea of assisted living.”

  • Charge a modest fee (say $10 or less) to attend the clinic that will be donated to a charity. This will set a monetary value for the clinic in the mind of your prospect, while positioning your community in a positive, charitable light.

  • Schedule the clinics or seminars for January, after the holidays have passed. A clinic during the holidays could be perceived as counterproductive. Attendance will be greater following the holidays. Caregivers are more likely to recognize their own need for support and comfort after enduring the stressful holiday period.

Plus, there is greater caregiver interest in senior living accommodations for loved ones immediately following the holidays. According to an analysis by an online lead generator, average post-Christmas inquiry volume on senior housing websites increases by 58%, and that volume continues well into January.

Extending the Invitation

Depending on budget availability, there are a number of ways to promote these clinics:

  • Obviously, you want to start with your in-house prospect and/or waiting list. These folks will be the most open and responsive to your invitation.

  • Reach out to your referral sources, especially geriatric care managers. They will know caregivers who may be interested in your clinics.

  • Purchase (or more accurately rent) a geographically and demographically targeted email list to send digital invitations. Focus your emails within a 5-10 mile radius of your community, directed to employed women 45-60 years old.

  • Invitations delivered by snail mail are also effective, using the same geographic and demographic parameters as your targeted email list.

  • If you still have money to promote the events after budgeting for the tactics suggested above, consider an online campaign using banner ads to get the word out. Digital tactics allow for very granular targeting – demographically, geographically, even overlaying “caregiving” as a parameter.

As Paul points out, “Caregivers are the gatekeepers to your future residents. Showing them a little love can result in a big payback.”