Frank Vardeman was about to undergo knee surgery in January after his legs suddenly “turned to noodles” and could no longer support him. Tests revealed the culprit to be a large growth entangled in his spinal cord. It took two neurosurgeries at a Chicago hospital to remove the mass and 44 days of rehab before the 62-year-old could return home in Chesterton, Ind.
Though the spinal growth turned out to be non-cancerous, he is now paralyzed from the thighs down – a difficult adjustment for anyone, especially for one who danced at his daughter’s wedding the month ago and still walked his 90-pound mutt along the shores of lake Michigan.
About a week after the first surgery, his wife, Heidi, a pastor at a local church, began posting updates about his medical condition on the social networking site CaringBridge. This mode of communication helped her avoid repeating the same story and “has been an affirmation of how many circles of friends we have and how many people really care,” said Ms. Vardeman.
April 21st, Mr. Vardeman had to undergo another surgery because of infection, which prevented a much anticipated trip to London, to attend a friend’s consecration as a bishop in the Church of England. In a posting from Europe, his wife tells friends and family, “We are now coping with a new reality, Frank has completely lost use of his legs.”
Many baby boomers are turning to social media for caregiving support. Now instead of dealing with emails & phone calls, the more tech-savvy can boot up their computer or mobile device and contact all supporters at once. But, as with all social media, the question arises, “How much to reveal, and to whom?” as Patrick McGinnis, 53, quickly discovered. After his son, James, 18, suffered severe head injuries playing high school football in Overland Park, Kan., Mr. McGinnis posted an update on his own Facebook page, and sharing previous summer photos. One of these turned up in a local newspaper article on his son’s injury. No harm done, but “it was a warning that I have to be very careful about what I post,” said Mr. McGinnis.
Nichole Maholtz, 48, considered using CaringBridge after her mother, Jane Schuck, was found to have virulent soft tissue cancer in 2013, but decided it was too much extra work at an already stressful time. Instead, Facebook became her primary communication tool. For nearly two years, Ms. Maholtz, who lives in Irmo, S.C., posted Facebook updates from her cellphone, iPad or laptop as she traveled with her mother to multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
By tagging her mother and brother, each of whom had their own Facebook pages, and relying on her 19 cousins to share the information through theirs, Ms. Maholtz was able to reach several thousand people. Many commented on her posts. “It was very effective, with very little effort,” she said. “I found it extremely comforting to know that so many people out there were pulling and praying for my family.”
When Ms. Schuck died, on Dec. 26, her daughter shared that news the same way, posing an obituary, details about a memorial service, and a link to a guest book on Legacy.com, a site for posing condolences. Based on the outpouring of sympathy online, Ms. Maholtz assumed everyone knew what had happened. She was surprised to learn, several weeks later, that a couple of her mother’s business colleagues, who were not on Facebook, were upset that they had not been told.
Read Article (Deborah Jacobs | nytimes.com | 05/13/2015)
Social media is an outstanding communications tool, but one must always be very careful what one posts there. Its Public, the comments are Public and all posting to social media is Permanently Public. You must keep in mind that everyone is not on Facebook. In fact, there are quite a few individuals that you couldn’t pay to be on FaceBook or Twitter.
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