In an age in which the internet is such a core part of individuals' lives from news media consumption to information finding to interpersonal interaction, it is difficult to think of a way in which the internet cannot be used to aid in virtually any search for data or support. Caregivers, in particular, can highly benefit from the use of the internet, particularly in terms of social media, to find helpful tips and support to aid them during what can be a challenging time. By connecting with other caregivers or networks that can provide information, caregivers can enrich themselves and improve their ability to care for loved ones as well as find what they need to fulfill the support they need emotionally.
Facebook is a web platform that allows individuals and organizations to interact in a multitude of ways. Once the creation of a personal page is complete, users can network with others through “friending” or “liking” certain pages. By doing so, caregivers can link with support groups, medical groups, or even others experiencing similar situations. For instance, by linking to the local chapter of the Visiting Nurse's Association, one can get valuable tips on a variety of medical issues. Or, a caregiver could become “friends” with and association related to the condition affecting the person to whom she is giving care, such as the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation or the American Heart Association, also gaining access to tips for care and other information related to the condition. Support groups on Facebook are available as well and allow users to connect with other individuals, either locally or at a distance, that can work together to trade ideas or console in times of emotional need.
Twitter is a site that allows users to communicate quickly and briefly. While each message that is “Tweeted,” exists of only 140 characters, a lot of information can be shared. Users can communicate links to articles that may be of help, or share feelings that others can relate and react to. Users can receive ideas, help, tips and advice by quickly posting a quick question or comment. Also, by following related medical associations, just like on Facebook, caregivers may have access to tweets that include valuable new information about medicine, supplies, research or other data. Additionally, there are live chats available to participate in on Twitter that can provide even more support, advice or information.
Inspire.com is an online forum that allows users to interact with each other to find support. Through the site, caregivers can find others with whom they can discuss every aspect of caregiving, from serious medical information to the emotional side of caregiving. With over 200,000 members, Inspire.com has a range of individuals involved to discuss myriad topics associated with a wide range of diseases and conditions from heart disease to Alzheimer's.
YouTube, while often used for posting music videos, silly stunts, or television program excerpts, can also be a worthwhile resource for those caring for someone with a challenging medical condition. YouTube offers people the ability to film “how-to's” about various topics, including those of a medical nature, enabling users to see firsthand on video how to do things such as change a dressing. Additionally, users may find it helpful to view other how-to's about how to install much needed new devices and such in various rooms of a house in order to accommodate someone with a new disability.
Overall, social media, while often purported to be used by young people to upload photos or connect with friends, can actually be a highly useful and beneficial tool for any caregiver seeking advice or support.