En español | Have you ever wondered:
"My mother is driving me crazy, but who can I tell?"
"How can I help Dad out of bed without breaking my own back?"
"Who is going to drive Mom to her doctor's appointment?"
If so, you're a caregiver. And if so, odds are you could benefit from online tools to lighten your load.
See also: Caregivers can get paid.
Use these tools to make caregiving easier:
"Facebook has been seen more as the high school reunion of the Internet world," says Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club. But it's evolving beyond that — and growing in popularity among caregivers. "Caregiving is a life event that so many boomer women are facing, and more and more are seeking out places where they can blow off some steam."
Through Facebook groups, caregivers can vent about a bad day, keep faraway family members informed of Mom's or Dad's condition and put a call out for volunteers when they need some help. You can post pictures and videos of your loved one and network with other caregivers through Facebook groups such as the Unprepared Caregiver and Today's Caregiver.
To use it, all you need is an email address and password to start your own page. You can then add as much or as little information about yourself as you'd like. Connect with friends and family through their email address and join Facebook groups by clicking the "Like" button. Once you have some Facebook friends and groups, you'll start to see their posts and updates. Then jump in with your own question, photograph or rant.
Talking to friends and family is important, but often it's people having experiences like your own who can offer the most support. "Online forums put you in touch with people who understand how stressful caregiving can be and won't judge you for saying, 'this really stinks' or 'the person I'm caring for is ticking me off today,' " says Beth McNaughton, vice president of community for Inspire.com, an online forum with more than 200,000 members.
On Inspire, you'll find nearly 200 support groups for everything from Alzheimer's to heart disease to incontinence. The boards appeal to patients and caregivers alike who want disease information and a sympathetic ear, McNaughton says. Other popular online groups include AARP's online community, the Alzheimer's Association message boards and Family Caregiver Alliance.
Before posting to a message board, McNaughton says, you should adopt a pseudonym to protect your privacy. Reading through past posts is important, too, she says, because this will give you an idea of whether the community is offering the type of support you need. Moderated boards, such as Inspire, will also offer more security, since you know that there is a third party who will weed out offensive posts and block people who are abusing the service.