Senior and young holding handsWhen you find out you’re expecting a baby, you know how to prepare. Visit any healthcare organization’s website and you’ll see it’s easy to find the guidance you need for pregnancy. Help deciding on a doctor, signing up for childbirth classes, and even advice on parenting is just a click away.

But what do you do at the first sign that your parents’ health is declining? Where do you go when you realize mom, dad or another loved one can’t be completely independent anymore? It’s much less likely you’ll know what to do or where to turn.

Caregiving — providing unpaid assistance and support to an adult loved one — is a responsibility shouldered by more than 50 million Americans. And you can bet most of them are interacting with the healthcare system.

Why caregivers matter to healthcare marketers

Attention and care for family caregivers pays dividends — in better health, lower costs and reduced stress. Here are five reasons why every hospital needs to pay attention to this enormous — and enormously important — group.

1. Caregivers influence healthcare choices

Caregiving might start with a daughter researching the best specialist for her dad online. Can she find the information she’s looking for? Then she might take off work to take him to the doctor’s appointment. Does she feel welcome in the waiting room? Is her time respected?

Read more >> Does your care team really hear you?

2. Caregivers need help

Taking care of an adult family member is often stressful and always time-consuming. Caregivers need emotional support, help finding services for loved ones, figuring out insurance and finances and navigating the system. How can your healthcare organization dip into its deep well of knowledge and skill to help relieve the burden of caregiving?

3. Caregivers are part of the care team

It’s a patient-centered world now. Providers understand that respecting patients’ goals and values and seeing them as partners in decision-making improves the outcome. Of course, the patient and family go hand in hand. Are caregivers considered and valued as members of the care team in your communications?

Read more >> Why I celebrate Nurses week all year long

4. Caregivers reduce the rate of return

Want to reduce readmissions (and who doesn’t)? Make sure you involve a patient’s family members along the way. A caregiver can be your best bet in making sure prescriptions are filled and appointments are kept after discharge. It’s so important that several states are considering legislation to require hospitals to keep caregivers in the loop.

5. Caregivers impact satisfaction scores

Who’s filling out the patient experience surveys? According to Dan Ansel, CEO of Active Daily Living, “It’s estimated that more than 40% of all Medicare patient satisfaction surveys are completed by a family caregiver rather than the patient — and that they tend to be less favorable in their responses regarding the interaction with the hospital.” Is the work you do to raise consumer perceptions extending to caregivers as well?