Check out the full size Elizz Caregiver Advice for Facebook Infographic.
So far, 2016 has been a tough one for big losses.
We have gathered on Facebook, on Twitter and other social spaces to mourn and pay tribute to many of our creative icons, like Natalie Cole, Glen Frey (of the Eagles), David Bowie and of course, Prince. We have lost artists who defined generations, and our own youth. Most recently we learned that Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, arguably the musical voice of our nation, is fighting incurable brain cancer.
Facebook is a great example of how we can stay connected, share support and happy memories, and even encourage end of life conversations.
I am also grieving the loss of two of my own friends, and witnessed other friends come to terms with loved ones’ health challenges.
All of this has me considering how caregivers using Facebook is a great example of how we can stay connected, share support and happy memories, and even encourage end of life conversations with family and friends.
Other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram can certainly play a role for caregivers too, but caregivers on Facebook lends itself particularly well for ongoing caregiver support.
One reason is that Facebook has a large, multigenerational user base; in 2016, the number of Facebook users in Canada is expected to reach 19 million, up from 16.1 million in 2012. Facebook also offers a lot of flexibility in the type and length of available posts, and how users can react to them.
To share or not to share in Facebook posts
Like most of us, I have come to know cancer and other serious illnesses in many different ways, through many different people. Some people need complete privacy, while others need to share.
Facebook and other social media feeds are filled with examples of supportive sharing, like sharing opinions (Have you tried this? How are you doing?).
We need to be aware of how much we are sharing on Facebook, and respecting the privacy of others.
We need to be aware of how much we are sharing on Facebook, and respecting the privacy of others. What did we all do before social media? When you are truly close to someone, you will be in touch — by phone, get togethers, private text messages or emails — and we will share and receive updates accordingly.
However, Facebook sharing can be a wonderful and immediate way to reach your circle of family and friends with a message, whether it’s an update or to thank people for their support.
Caregivers using Facebook can be relieved of the pressure to stay in touch with many people individually. You can also decide how much, or how little, you are willing to share, or respond to at any given time. Even the most quiet or private people can be supported in this way.
Ask yourself, as a caregiver, and thinking about the person in your care — How much information do you want to share? How much do you prefer to keep private?
Create a Facebook group
A caregiver Facebook group is a fantastic central place for family and friends to connect. Group members can share updates, words of encouragement, and photos of the person being cared for.
Anyone can create a Facebook group and invite people to join, and once the group is set up, it more or less runs itself. One of the available settings is to allow any group member to approve a new request to join, which is a great way to keep up with approving requests.
Appoint one person to manage Facebook and other social accounts
In a previous Elizz article we offered a Facebook Guide for the Elderly. It’s wonderful if the person who is ill or injured can keep up with reading, liking, and commenting on Facebook posts on his or her own.
However, it’s a good idea to choose one family member or friend, like a sibling, to deal with the social media if the person in your care is no longer able to manage their social media accounts.
For example, a sister can take over showing the person the Facebook posts, and liking or replying to them. Similarly, this person can be the one to post periodic updates according to the family’s wishes.
Include social media in end of life conversations
Most of us leave such a strong digital footprint on Facebook, Twitter and other social media that our social personas will actually outlive us.
A friend of mine who passed away recently occasionally still has beautiful tributes posted on her Facebook timeline, which can be comforting as we grieve and remember her. It can help to keep her “with us,” just not in real time.
However, it also makes my heart sink whenever a notification pops up that she is a mutual friend of someone, or if it’s her birthday — with a prompt to send her birthday wishes.
It’s a good idea for caregivers to ask the people they are caring for some questions about their social personas such as:
- Who will deal with your social media accounts when you die?
- Who deals with cancelling or completely removing social media accounts -- or telling followers or connections that you have died?
- What can you do to plan for this while you’re still here?
If the illness of the person you are caring for becomes more serious, it is also a good idea to have a conversation about their wishes for social media accounts if they die. Find out what social media accounts they have, and the associated passwords so that you can carry out their wishes.
When Facebook Memories show us photos of what we’ve shared from our own lives, it also makes us think about our own mortality (Was that really 5 years ago already? Wait, has Facebook been around for 9 years?).
The memories should also make us think about what’s important, and tell us to squeeze the people we love and support one another. Life moves quickly and a party can end before we’re ready.
We’re all in this life together. Caregivers using Facebook is a great way to support each other, and to share how much people mean to us now — not only after they are gone.
Visit our Elizz caregiver services page to find more support services for caregivers and the people in your care.