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Caregiver Healthcare Content: When the Patient Isn’t Your Audience

A mother and her caregiver daughter looking at the daughter's smartphone together

Most of the time, when you’re writing healthcare content for a provider organization, we recommend writing directly to the patient. Writing directly to them helps foster feelings of warmth and connection between your healthcare organization (HCO) and the potential patient. But what happens when you’re writing for the caregiver, rather than the patient?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 25% of U.S. adults ages 45 to 64 provide regular care to a loved one with a health problem or disability. And that figure doesn’t even consider all the other types of caregivers who make decisions about their loved ones’ care. We see this type of caregiver frequently in our persona and journey mapping work. Provider organizations often want to account for the “sandwich generation” — the consumer who is caring for both their children and their aging parents (not to mention themselves).

Writing for your caregiver audience takes both empathy and finesse. Let’s go through when to write for a caregiver, how your content strategists should write for them and what to write for them.

When do I write to the caregiver?

Content for pediatric care

The classic example we often use with our clients is pediatric content. In this scenario, the child isn’t making healthcare decisions for themselves, of course. The parent or guardian is. This applies for nearly all pediatric content, including:

  • Primary care
  • Specialty care
  • Subspecialty care (e.g., sports medicine)

One of the few examples of pediatric care that you may not direct toward the parent or guardian is if a child could seek healthcare services from your providers but not want their parent or guardian to know. For example, we once worked with a client that provided mobile exams for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases without the need for parental consent. In that case, the child was the audience, not the caregiver.

Content for geriatric and older-adult care

You should also consider including caregivers in your messaging for content relating to geriatric or older-adult care. This is especially true if your team is writing about content relating to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other conditions that can affect cognitive function. If the patient may not be able to make choices relating to their care, you should write for the person who can. However, this can be a difficult situation if the patient is still able to make decisions for themselves. That’s why we often advocate for including both the patient and the caregiver in your content (e.g., writing to “you or your loved one”).

Content for emergency and trauma care

We also recommend including caregivers in content for emergency or trauma care. In these types of scenarios, the patient may not be able to make decisions about their healthcare. While first responders, paramedics, emergency room providers and others will do what needs to be done to save the patient’s life, their loved ones may have questions about what to expect during and after their care. Your service-line content can help speak to this audience during their time of need.

Content for chronic condition care

Finally, we recommend including caregiver-specific information with your content for long-term and chronic conditions, such as cancer care, heart failure and others. These types of conditions often require significant support from family members and other loved ones. And the caregiver’s role can be stressful. By writing to this person within your patient’s support network, you can help smooth the process for your patient and make everyone’s experience a little easier.

How do I write to the caregiver?

Just like in content geared toward the patient, we recommend writing to the caregiver using second-person (“you,” “your,” etc.). In this case, write to the caregiver by referencing their relationship to the patient — “your child” or “your loved one,” for example.

However, effective caregiver messaging isn’t just a matter of swapping in a few different references. Your tone can and should change to meet the reader where they are. The reader’s emotions are in a different place than they would be if they were the patient themselves. Patient-specific content often balances acknowledgement of negative emotions the consumer is feeling — fear, anger, confusion, sadness and more. With caregiver content, all of those may be there, but there’s usually a protectiveness you need to reach out to — “We know you want the best care available for your child,” or “Your loved one deserves the most advanced treatment possible.”

We allow ourselves to be selfish for our loved ones in a way we don’t usually allow about ourselves. And good caregiver content needs to resonate with that.

Make sure you account for the strong emotions your reader is likely feeling:

  • Don’t tell the caregiver what they’re feeling
  • Acknowledge their likely emotions
  • Let them know it’s OK that they feel this way
  • When possible, work to inspire hope and confidence in your team’s care for their loved one

For example, consider this type of introduction to FAQ content: “It’s normal to have questions about your child’s orthopedic care. Our team is here to help. We’ve gathered answers to questions our experts often receive from patients and their loved ones about their care.”

Through this sort of straightforward approach, you can help alleviate some of the anxiety caregivers have about their loved one and instill confidence that they’re in good hands with your providers.

What do I write to the caregiver?

As with any provider content, the core message is still your value proposition. Why is your system the best choice for their loved one’s care? What do they get with you that they won’t get anywhere else? Once they know your team is the right one for their loved one, you then have to give them strong calls to action (CTAs) so they can take the action they need for their loved one.

But apart from these table-stakes pieces of content, consider including information specific to the caregiver and their unique journey. Showcase care and support options for caregivers and family members, such as:

  • Support groups
  • Assistance from social workers
  • Child life specialists (to help children whose family member is ill or injured)

Take the time to let caregivers know your team is there for their whole family. This kind of support can ease the burdens of already-stressed loved ones as well as the patients in your providers’ care.

Partner with us for caregiver content that resonates

If your HCO’s content creators need help reaching your caregiver audience, we can help. Our dedicated healthcare strategists work with clients to craft relatable, emotionally intelligent experiences geared toward the unique needs of your audience. Contact us to find out about our strategic options.

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Michael Adkins, Senior Content Strategist, Digital Health Strategy

As part of Perficient's Digital Health Strategy team, Michael partners with healthcare organizations to create informative, conversion-centered content for a variety of applications, including websites and blogs. Michael writes content that highlights clients’ service-line offerings, expertise in unique treatments, differentiators in competitive markets and additional factors that are important to patients.

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