Seasons Hospice Leverages Facebook Live in Grief Support

Rosemont, Ill.-based Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care has begun offering programs through Facebook Live to support families coping with loss. The program supplements the hospice’s in-person and online grief support groups.

The program’s first video presentation, presented late last year, addressed grief during the holidays and garnered more than 1,800 views. The most recent presentation on May 8 covered legacy projects and was viewed more than 4,700 times and shared 17 times.

Many families want bereavement care but find attending in-person groups challenging due to scheduling conflicts, work hours, and other obligations. Others may live some distance away from the meeting location or simply be uncomfortable speaking about their feelings in front of a group.

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The idea was sparked when Seasons staff noticed that activity on the hospice’s social media accounts picked up significantly when they posted about grief or bereavement.

“We noticed that anytime we posted advice or tips for people who were dealing with the loss of a loved one it really gained a lot of traction,” said April Dovorany, Seasons public relations manager, who runs the company’s social media account. “The question became ‘How can we be better serving people?’; beyond sharing tips, how can we do something bigger and really impactful for people living in the community who are really hurting.”

Seasons during 2018 provided 1.85 million days of care for more than 30,000 hospice patients and families during 2018, within patients’ residences as well as in the organization’s 18 inpatient facilities.

The hospice releases the Facebook Live videos around significant dates that can cause many grieving families to struggle, such as the winter holidays, Mother’s or Father’s Day, as well as Valentine’s Day for people who have lost a spouse or partner.

The hospice’s holiday presentation explained the value of early family conversations to discuss how things might be different without their deceased loved one.

“There are benefits to opening up that communication to recognize that our loved one was always the one who carved the turkey, for example, and determine who is going to do that this year. Maybe they always had a backyard football game, they can discuss whether that tradition will continue,” Ryana Goldberger, national director of Supportive Care Services for Seasons, told Hospice News. “We gave them tips on adding new traditions to recognize their memories, such as keeping a candle lit, or setting a place at the table. The goal is to normalize those emotions and give them resources as they continue their journey through the grief.”

Family and community reception of the program has been positive. Numerous comments on the videos include words of thanks, discussion of points that particularly struck the participant, as well as requests for further exploration of a topic, such as adapting coping strategies for young children.

The hospice advises a degree of caution regarding communication with patients and families via social media, recommending that health care organizations use comments and messages as springboards for private phone or in-person conversations due to privacy concerns, including compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requirements, Tony Kudner, vice president of Communications and Public Affairs told Hospice News.

“This is an extension of customer service,” Kudner said. “One of the goals of hospice is to meet people where they are. This is one more way of achieving that goal, to help our patients and families in new and innovative ways.”

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