ConnectingBeing separated from families during this game-changing COVID-19 outbreak has put a lot of strain on patients, residents, and their families.

Officials have made it clear that the coronavirus outbreak poses health risks for everyone, and that the elderly are particularly vulnerable forcing most; if not all, senior living communities to implement a no-visitor policy. This poses a challenge for families wanting to stay connected to their loved ones.

Here are some ideas on how social media can help patients and residents can stay connected with their families during these troubling times.

Facebook Messenger:

Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging feature built into Facebook. It lets Facebook users connect and send instant messages, emoji, photos, videos, and even allows users to video chat with each other or video chat with multiple people so multiple family members anywhere in the world can connect using video chat. For long-term care communities that have a Facebook business page, Facebook messenger is also a good way for patients, residents, family members, and staff to communicate online.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter stories:

Facebook and Instagram call their short-lived photo and video sharing “stories”. Twitter calls theirs “Fleets”. No matter what they’re called, short-lived photo and video sharing can be a way for long-term care residents and patients to share photos, short videos, or posts sharable with their connections and only visible on the platforms for about 24-hours.

Social Media Post Content Ideas:

Many long-term care communities are getting very creative when it comes to posting content on social media channels that showcase events, activities, and even information about residents and patients themselves (without violating any HIPPA privacy policies, of course). These posts are designed to keep family members in the loop with what their loved ones are doing daily. Here are some ideas:

Facebook Live: When there are activities that residents and patients participate in, the long-term care community can use their Facebook business page to go “live”. When a Facebook live video is started, most people connected to the page will get a notification that the business is broadcasting live. This is a great way to show activity participants to the followers of the page (family members for example).

Whiteboard Messages: We’ve seen several social media posts where patients and residents are given a whiteboard with dry-erase markers where they can write messages to their loved ones. Snap a photo and upload it on social media channels.

Activity photos: For those not well-versed in using Facebook Live, simply taking photos of events and activities and uploading them to social media is another great way to show family members the activities their loved ones are participating in.

Show the Mail: Encourage families with younger children to write notes of encouragement, love, support or even jokes, send cards and drawings then take pictures and upload them to your social media channels.

Photos and Videos from Family Members: Encourage families to take family photos or even short videos and upload them to social media accounts. This is a great opportunity for staff to show those photos or videos to the patients or residents to show them their family is thinking about them.

Outside connecting family members with their loved ones in long-term care communities, social media is an excellent way to keep people informed about the crisis.

From a social media perspective, we’ve also seen a significant increase in the engagement and reach rates on social media for aging services communities since the pandemic outbreak – in large part, this can be directly attributed to the increased interpersonal types of content that are being posted on social media.

Share your ideas with others. How are you using social media in your long-term care community to connect your patients and residents with their loved ones?