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“Carefluencers”, when care becomes social

Healthcare influencers: the rise of healthcare providers sharing their stories on social media

A new trend has emerged on social media platforms, where caregivers share their daily experiences caring for elderly parents, grandparents, spouses, and sick or disabled children. Known as “care influencers,” these caregivers have thousands of followers who tune in to hear their advice, view their photos and videos, and even purchase merchandise related to caregiving.

Researchers at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology have coined the term “care influencers” to describe these influencers who use social media to normalize the experience of caregiving. Many caregivers are turning to social media as a way to seek support, combat isolation, and share information with others who are having similar experiences.

However, experts warn that while healthcare influencers raise awareness of the challenges of healthcare, there is a risk of presenting healthcare as a competition and promoting emotional resilience in an unrealistic way. There is also concern that some healthcare influencers may be influenced by sponsorship from pharmaceutical companies, potentially leading to the spread of misinformation.

Loredana Ligabue, Secretary of the CARER APS Association, emphasizes the importance of face-to-face interactions for caregivers, as social media may not fully meet the support and resources needed to care for loved ones. The focus on self-promotion and exaggerated experiences on social media can overshadow the systemic issues healthcare providers face, such as a lack of support and access to resources.

Marina Petrini, scientific director of the ISSN research project, emphasizes that each caregiver’s ability to deal with the challenges of care delivery varies and cannot be judged from images on social media. Female caregivers, in particular, are at greater risk for depression, which can impact their overall well-being.

As the caregiver trend continues to grow, it is important that caregivers seek support from trusted sources and prioritize their own well-being. Caregiving is a demanding role that requires real-life connections and access to resources beyond what social media can provide.