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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baby Boomer Caregiver Use of Technologies and Social Media Increasing

"Is e-mail a good way to communicate with you?"  "Have you used Google before?"  "Are you familiar with navigating the Internet?" 

If you are like me, you have asked similar questions of your patients and their care-partners. Increasingly, I rely on the Internet to find, locate, and print materials for families when helping them get connected to resources. An area of interest of mine is harnassing the power of the Internet and Social Media in the field of Social Work to better serve our patients. This last year, our center has also become more involved in utilizing social media to provide some outreach and education to our patients and families. Given that we serve a mostly older population, I have often wondered what percentage of our patient and care-partner population make use of the Internet, e-mail, and Social Media to obtain information or help them select resources.

I know when I ask my patients and care-partners the above questions, most seem to have an e-mail address and feel comfortable using it, but I cannot comfortably say the same about their responses to the Google and Internet questions. Generally speaking, I find the older the patient, the less likely they will feel comfortable utilizing the Internet, Social Media or e-mail to communicate or obtain information about resources. Given that our society is so heavily dependent on the Internet and social media (and growing more so everday) I think Social Workers provide an increasingly vital link to these e-sources of information for our patients and their care-partners. 

On January 10th two studies were released that looked at Baby Boomer caregivers and their use of social media and the internet.  The studies reveal some pretty interesting data. For instance, when looking at Internet usage by care-partners one of the studies revealed that "70% reported having used the Internet for caregiving related information or support..." I would not have guessed this number to be so high. 

Here is the link to the article that discusses the two studies:  Caregiver use of technology

I believe Social Workers can play a very important role in helping our patients and their care-partners make use of the Internet and other technologies. One thing that comes to mind is to offer a "Navigating the Internet" course for our patient and care-partner populations. I have also considered creating a website set up specifically for caregivers that is a "one-stop shop" for Parkinson's disease/caregiver-related resources.

I would love to hear from any other social workers and mental health professionals about what you are doing in this area for your patient and care-partner populations.



  1. I constantly am using the internet and like technology daily on my Neuro unit. I find that my patient's and families prefer up to date information. With many prestigious institutions and agencies now providing resources online I feel I am able to provide so much more to them...then just the name of one local agency and a few recommended books!

    I provide hard copies of articles I feel may be helpful, websites for support groups, medication and durable medical equipment resources, caregiver resources etc.....

    Mostly it is the "children" who are open to getting online to look things up.......but I have found that I am running into an increasing number of internet savvy seniors!

    A one stop shop for Parkinson's information would be great!

  2. Jennifer thanks for finding us and for signing up. What kind of neuro unit do you work on?
    Your experiences sounds very similar to what I do as well. I'm finding many patients are willing to give internet surfing a try to look things up.

    I think a 15 to 30 minute 'internet 101' mini-training for Baby Boomers that are interested would be well received....

  3. I work at a hospice. More and more frequently, I'm finding that my younger bereavement clients are more comfortable getting support in web forums, chatrooms, email lists, etc. than they are attending support groups or talking to someone on the phone. I'm not sure if this is a healthy trend or not, but now that I've become aware of it, I make sure to offer my younger client Internet-based resources for grief support as well as community resources.

    Debra Stang
    Alliant Professional Networking Specialist
    A Great Source for Online CE