“Hospice is where you go to die.”
“We wish we would have learned about hospice care sooner.”
These are statements hospice teams hear frequently from families and caregivers of hospice patients. Two of the greatest challenges faced by hospice marketing teams stem from the feelings expressed by these audiences, and they include how to help audiences recognize that hospice care goes beyond facilitating care in the final days of a person’s life and how to reach caregivers and families sooner.
With nearly 20 years of hospice and home care marketing under his belt, Cooper Linton is no stranger to these challenges. In his current role as VP of Marketing and Business Development at Transitions LifeCare, Linton works with his team to actively address these challenges. Linton says caregivers and families are reluctant to use hospice services because they know that there is loss once the services are delivered. And while hospice providers believe in the the value of their services “we just expect the market to understand us, but we need to understand our market--their points of view--and adapt [to these needs].”
And what are these needs? “[Families and caregivers] want help, and they don’t necessarily know what that help looks like. They simply want someone to meet them where they are to help them navigate this difficult path.” Hospice, home health, and palliative organizations can achieve this by meeting caregivers earlier in the decision-making process and providing them with the information and resources they need.
Transitions LifeCare has taken a proactive and highly targeted approach to supporting caregivers in their community. One of their largest initiatives has been partnering with Guiding Lights Caregiver Support Center that, in 2016, helped 3,500 families get the information and support they needed. Another unique way Transitions LifeCare connects with its audiences is through caregiver summits they host four times a year. The goal of these summits is to empower caregivers through educational sessions. Linton and his team also host Aging Matters--a weekly, hour-long radio show that helps listeners “navigate the many choices and issues we face as we age, or as we care for an aging loved one.”
Destigmatizing hospice care is not an easy task in our death-averse society. Linton feels that we’re inundated with messages focused on youth and beauty which “allow us to live in denial of the reality of mortality.” Current medical practices also give us a “false sense of being able to cure everything.” Through strategic messaging, Transitions LifeCare is attempting to reframe the way people talk about end-of-life care and death. Linton and his team hope that their organization helps people understand that hospice does not represent an absence of hope and that acknowledging death doesn’t make it happen.
“We’re wired to love and be loved,” says Linton, so how do we, as hospice providers, help caregivers and patients fulfill this need? Giving people hope for a good quality of life and helping people live better are the best messages hospices can convey to their audiences in order to overcome the negative impressions people have about hospice care.