How Social Media Helps Caregivers
Social media may conjure up images of young tech-savvy kids interacting with their peers online, but in reality older adults are using social media more than ever before. These sites can prove effective in updating friends and family about a loved one’s health status with the click of a mouse. In a Pew Internet survey, 50 million American boomers are on Facebook and the use of social networking sites by people over age 50 has jumped 88% between 2009 and 2010. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have made it easier to create a profile and have become more user-friendly as the influx of baby boomers dive into the cyber pool.
Facebook is a great site to use when updating friends and family on the status of a loved one’s health condition. Instead of the old “phone tree,” creating a Facebook group allows only designated friends and family to see updates on the health status of a loved one. So if mom’s recovering from surgery, daily posts about her recovery process can be viewed by all in the group. This can free up valuable time for caregivers so that they can focus on the physical aspect of caregiving or their own personal needs. Though the accessibility of Facebook has made it a popular information sharing tool, there are a few safety measures to ensure that private information is only seen by designated friends and family. Your Facebook profile and any groups you create should be kept “private” so that only your approved friends on Facebook can view this information. Never post any personally identifiable information such as social security numbers even if it will only be viewed by approved users since this information could still be obtained by internet hackers. With the proper security in place, Facebook is a great way to organize the care of a loved one, interact with other caregivers to relieve stress, and form support communities.
Twitter can be used to update friends and family in 140 characters or less on the status of a loved one. For instance, if dad just got out of surgery, you can send a quick “tweet” to designated followers notifying them of his status. Think of Twitter as a mass text message without having to type in the names and numbers of the people you want the message sent to. “Tweets” can be kept private as a direct message to a select few so that everyone who follows you on Twitter can’t see it. Other helpful social media sites include Meal Train, an interactive, online meal calendar where you can coordinate meal delivery amongst friends and family to a loved one needing meal assistance. What Friends Do helps friends and family form a “team” to respond to the care needs of a loved one by offering transportation assistance, meal preparation and other tasks.
Navigating through social media sites can seem daunting at first but most have created website designs that are user-friendly for the technology novice. As a caregiver, your time may be stretched between personal obligations and work commitments. Social media provides a way to manage your obligations in a time-efficient manner while relieving the stress that comes with being a caregiver.
Anne-Marie Botek. (n.d). Social Media Provides Caregivers a Cyber Shoulder to Lean On . In AgingCare. Retrieved July 19, 2012, from http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/social-media-resource-for-caregivers-149764.htm.
Cynthia Ramnarace. (January 9, 2012). How Social Media Can Help Caregivers. In AARP. Retrieved July 19, 2012, from http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-01-2012/how-social-media-can-help-caregivers.html.
CARIE Intern and
Drexel University School of Public Health