POST SUMMARY: Despite the awareness of caregiver roles, and the support services now available, the attention paid to caregivers is severely lacking. In fact, a report published in JAMA finds that many physicians overlook caregiver burden all together. This represents a significant opportunity for biopharma companies to treat the whole patient.“Most physicians haven’t been trained to ask patients about it, and it’s a new clinical habit that you have to consciously adopt and work on,” says geriatrician Dr. Anne Fabiny, medical editor of Caregiver’s Handbook, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
The authors of the JAMA study found that caregivers are typically women who spend about 20 to 40 hours a week providing care. They also found that most caregivers feel abandoned and unrecognized by the health care system.
Spousal caregivers face greater challenges than caregivers helping a parent for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they tend to be older.
Of these caregivers, 32% have a high caregiver burden. There is no medical classification for “caregiver burden.” But it’s generally known as the toll that caregiving takes on a person. It can manifest in many ways, including physical ailments, mental illness, social isolation, and financial problems.
“Caregivers get depressed. Then they neglect their own health or they miss doctor appointments because they can’t extract themselves from their caregiving role. They just don’t have support, so things like exercising, getting enough sleep, or engaging in a social life all fall away,” says Dr. Fabiny.
Treating the Whole Patient
In a quick review of most healthcare pharma sites indicates that there is not a lot of content for caregivers nor does the information really address the needs of caregivers. This, I feel, represents a key opportunity for pharma companies to both engage caregivers through dedicated CRM programs and provide information so they can better manage their stress.
Empathy, from a caregivers POV, is key to better understanding this segment and providing solutions that enhance the brand/patient/caregiver relationship.