Alzheimer's and Dementia: Caring for the Caregivers

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Their numbers are only likely to grow as the U.S. population continues to age, with the number of Americans ages 65 and up expected to grow from 55 million in 2019 to 88 million by 2050 according to the U.S. Census. And, along with the patient population, the number of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia—currently estimated at five million—will grow as well.  

Drawing on its 2019 MARS Consumer Health Study, which surveys approximately 20,000 U.S. adults regarding their healthcare attitudes and behaviors, Kantar has developed an in-depth profile of these caregivers. There is a clear opportunity for marketers to offer solutions to this significant, growing, and stressed audience—with few brands currently trying to reach out to them directly.

Who are the Caregivers?

Alzheimer’s/dementia caregivers are a surprisingly diverse group. Caregivers are fairly evenly split between genders (53% are female), and are from a variety of different generational groups. Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials each make up close to 30% of the caregiver population, with Gen Z constituting another 5%. However, a significant share of caregivers are between the ages of 40-64 (43%).

Caregivers are typically family members—spouses, children caring for parents, or grandchildren caring for grandparents. Nearly 40% of those caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s/dementia have never married, although the majority of Boomer caregivers are married (57%). Nearly a fifth of caregivers are parents to a child or children under the age of 18, creating dual responsibility.

Taking Prime Responsibility for Care

Caring for an Alzheimer’s/dementia patient is a substantial and long-term responsibility. Close to half of caregivers (48%) are caring for a patient at home, and two out of five have been providing care for at least five years. Caregivers are very likely to be highly involved in the patient’s medical decisions (86%) and to manage their finances or provide financial support (47%).

Indeed, Alzheimer’s/dementia caregivers are clearly the primary drivers of all aspects of medical care for these patients. A majority stated they are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Discussing conditions or treatments with the patient’s doctor
  • Providing transportation to doctors and medical treatments
  • Monitoring the state of the patient’s condition
  • Making doctors’ appointments

And Neglecting Their Own Needs

With so much time and effort being spent on helping patients, it’s not surprising that caregivers experience significant stress and often end up putting themselves last. Indeed, those caring for Alzheimer’s/dementia patients are under far more pressure than other caregivers. Compared to caregivers as a whole, the Alzheimer’s/dementia caregiver is:

  • 15% more likely to be overweight according to their BMI
  • 16% more likely to have exercised zero days in the past week
  • 21% more likely to have experienced anxiety over the past year
  • 15% more likely to have experienced depression over the past year

Overall, approximately 60% of these caregivers agree they are highly stressed—and over a third state their stress has increased over the past year. Yet, clearly it is difficult for them to take time to care for themselves. Despite the amount of time they spend taking patients to doctors, over a third of caregivers have not had a physical during the past year, while 45% have not had a flu or pneumonia vaccine.

Helping Caregivers Take Care of Their Patients—And Themselves

It’s clear that Alzheimer’s/dementia caregivers could use support for their own health and wellness (in addition to help in navigating the patient care journey), and fortunately they are willing to receive it. Kantar’s research indicates that this group is noticeably more open to getting health information from sources such as websites, seminars, and support groups than the general population. Pharmacists and doctors are particularly valuable sources of information and guidance for these caregivers, and over 60% have researched treatments on their own and discussed them with their doctors (compared to 44% of adults overall).

This creates a significant opportunity for companies to connect with caregivers and market pharmaceuticals and other solutions for both the patient and their caregivers. And it’s a relatively untapped arena. According to Kantar’s ad intelligence research, ad spending on Alzheimer’s-related pharmaceuticals has declined significantly for both professional and direct-to-consumer campaigns in the past few years.

Indeed, during 2019, Kantar has found less than $100,000 was spent on consumer ads in this category. One of the few recent examples is a digital campaign promoting Namzaric, which sought to empathize with caregivers with language like “I realized his Alzheimer’s had progressed when my husband didn’t recognize our grandson.” The limited activity may be due in part to a lack of blockbuster new drug launches, but, given the significant size of the caregiver population, the lack in advertising to this audience still represents a large missed opportunity.

Namzaric creative:  

Caring for the Caregiver  

Caring for the Caregiver  

Caring for the Caregiver

So how can brands connect with this growing group of caregivers? Here are some suggestions:

  • Address caregivers directly and acknowledge the burdens they bear. Showing patients being cared for at home should resonate with many caregivers.
  • Opportunities exist to market not just patient treatments but also wellness solutions that can help make caregivers’ lives easier.
  • Promoting mobile and other tech solutions for monitoring and managing care could be particularly productive. Half of Alzheimer’s/dementia caregivers are currently using the internet to research health at least weekly, and 91% own smartphones; a high 64% would be willing to use a mobile app recommend by their physician.
  • As this group is very likely to engage in research, provide plenty of information resources so they can be as informed as possible.
  • Include both doctors and pharmacists in your campaign strategy as these groups play a critical role in caregiver decision-making.

With all the demands on Alzheimer’s/dementia caregivers, any outreach about solutions that can improve their patients’ lives as well, as their own lives, will undoubtedly be welcome. And with so little advertising currently targeted to these consumers, there’s significant opportunity to make an impact.

You can also view this article on PM360, the premier, must-read magazine for marketing decision makers in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries.  



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