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Social Media, Online Communities May Aid Clinical Care for Seniors

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 17, 2013

Social Media, Online Communities May Aid Clinical Care for SeniorsHealth reform will involve a blend of old and new as researchers suggest social media can improve clinical care for elderly patients.

Researchers from the University of Luxembourg believe the use of social media and online communities by older people can offer valuable additional support in cases of sickness and diseases.

In a new publication, investigators conclude that possibilities for a systematic application in clinical practice seem promising.

The findings come with Web-related caveats related to monitoring, policing and updating personal health information.

The emergence of mobile-health and user-friendly devices ranging from tablets to other web-enabled devices, interrelated with social media — such as online social networks, discussion boards, and online forums — provide older adults with a wealth of resources.

In the study, psychologist Dr. Anja Leist and colleagues reviewed existing studies to document the wide range of options available to older adults.

They discovered a welter of intervention possibilities, such as designing websites to provide information on hip fracture prevention where older adults can also discuss their experiences.

With the successful use of a computer or web-enabled device, older adults report enhanced feelings of control and self-efficacy, but social media provides even more benefits for older adults.

“For me, it was interesting to learn that there is evidence for a large potential of social media in clinical practice. Older adults can use social media to access health-related information and engage in patient-to-patient or patient-doctor conversations,” Leist said.

“There are many online forums where people in difficult life situations, such as informal caregivers of a spouse with dementia or individuals with depression, can exchange thoughts as well as receive and provide social support. Other positive consequences are that lonely older adults can overcome loneliness through contact to family and friends and other users with similar interests.”

But social media has its drawbacks, such as access to harmful or incorrect information and misuse of personal data. Besides the potential for clinical practice and other positive consequences in everyday use of social media, the researchers also addressed these possible negative consequences of social media use.

Other negative effects include unfavorable social comparisons due to overly positive self-representations of others displayed in online social networks.

In the study, researchers discuss posthumous management of online web content, i.e. ,when the user has passed away. Another crucial unresolved issue is data handling when a user develops an illness such as dementia which leads to compromised decision-making ability.

Unless the user has agreed beforehand to transfer decision-making, inappropriate behavior or displayed web content could pose a danger to others, but also harm the dignity of the user.

Source: University of Luxembourg

 

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2013). Social Media, Online Communities May Aid Clinical Care for Seniors. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/04/17/social-media-online-communities-may-aid-clinical-care-for-seniors/53826.html