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4 ways to recruit Alzheimer’s disease patients for your clinical trial

What key things do you need to remember to reach patients living with Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease mainly affects people over the age of 65, with the disease developing and symptoms changing over time.

Typical early symptoms include:

  • Memory loss (forgetting events, names and faces)
  • Misplacing things or putting them in odd places
  • Confusion around the date or time of day

And as the disease develops, symptoms include:

  • Day-to-day tasks become harder. For example, using a TV remote
  • Memory and thinking skills worsen, including the ability to make decisions
  • Communication and language become more difficult

You might be thinking that these symptoms, alongside the age group that Alzheimer’s disease affects, will make it much more challenging to reach patients living with this condition. And yes, while it might not be easy, there are steps that you can follow to engage with Alzheimer’s disease patients about your clinical trial, while still ensuring that you’re being mindful and understanding of their healthcare journey.

So, follow these 4 tips, and you’ll be more likely to reach patients living with Alzheimer’s disease to engage with them about your clinical trial.

Tip 1. Remember the importance of the caregivers’ role

Caregivers play a very important role in the healthcare journey for Alzheimer’s disease patients, especially when the disease is at a more advanced stage. They play a crucial part in determining the treatment plan for the patient, and patients often rely on their caregivers to help them get to and from the clinical trial site. So, whether it’s their partner, child or grandchild, you should remember to include them at all stages of the clinical trial and ensure that both the patient and their caregiver are well-informed at all times. During recruitment, that means tailoring your advertisements, information materials, and even your conversations so that they’re inclusive of both patients and caregivers.

Tip 2. Consider a community focus

While many patients will still rely on the old-fashioned well trusted approach of going to their physician to learn more about their disease and symptoms or seek referrals, this is not the only place they will go to find this kind of information.

By developing a community focus for your recruitment strategy, you could spread the word about your clinical trial by hosting events, handing out brochures or information leaflets, or hanging posters in the relevant places, to reach the right people. And if you’re following tip number 1, your materials will be aimed at both patients and caregivers, so you’ll grab the attention from a wider range of people, and the information can be passed on easily throughout the community.

Not only does a community focus enable you to connect with different people and share resources, but it also allows you to build trust. This is important because if you have already built strong partnerships with a community, you can reach out to them once your clinical trial is ready to recruit.

Tip 3. Embrace technology for digital engagement

Technology and online platforms are on the rise, and like many of us, you might assume that the younger population are more willing to use it compared to the older population. However, this isn’t always the case.

Did you know that users who are 65 and older are the fastest-growing group on Facebook?2 Plus, some Alzheimer’s disease patients are already using online platforms or different types of technology to help with their independence and day-to-day tasks. For example, using apps on their phone to engage their memory, or using virtual assistants like Alexa to ask questions in their home.

It’s also worth noting that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people of all ages have had to learn to use technology to keep them connected with friends, family, and colleagues. This includes social media and communication platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, across different types of devices.

So, while using Facebook for clinical trial advertising might not have been your first thought, using a platform like this can enable you to create targeted ads that are cost effective, and help you to reach potential patients or their caregivers. And, using a platform like Facebook allows people to easily share the clinical trial ads with other people they know, by commenting on the post or tagging others who might be interested.

Tip 4. Understand that some patients may need the information to be private and discrete

Receiving a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease is not easy, and naturally, many can find it difficult to cope with. This means that some patients might be hiding their diagnosis from others, including employers, family and friends, due to their fear of employment or social implications.

It’s important that you’re aware of this when it comes to your patient recruitment strategy and take steps to ensure they still receive the information, but they have the option to keep it private if they wish to do so. For example, your Facebook advertisements could lead to a mobile-friendly website, where they can learn more about the clinical trial at a time that suits them, allowing them to look at the information on their phone when they feel comfortable to do so.

By following these 4 tips, you will be able to successfully engage with Alzheimer’s disease patients or their caregivers.

This blog was originally published here.

26th February 2021

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