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How Online Support Networks Can Help: Interview with CaringBridge CEO

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenNovember 15, 2012
Senior Woman in Hospital

In honor of National Family Caregiver Month, A Place for Mom decided to interview CaringBridge CEO, Sona Mehring, about the services her nonprofit website, CaringBridge.org offers to caregivers, seniors and their family and friends.

Having support networks and resources helps both the seniors and the elderly during any type of health event.

When one of your loved ones is sick, hospitalized or undergoes surgery, emotions and tensions can run high. Of course the support of family and friends is needed, but often the calls and inquiries can be overwhelming—especially when it’s hard to even cope with the decisions and stress at-hand. I had never heard of CaringBridge.org until a close family friend suffered a heart attack, and I have to say; I was very impressed with the support and services this helpful non-profit site offered. Everything from the ability for people to leave personal, supportive messages to updates on health conditions to flower delivery and the coordination of needed help.

We at A Place for Mom work with families who need help with senior living care and resources, and the CaringBridge product offers just another fabulous free resource to families—a health and social network through personalized websites. Our mission to help families is related, our services unique. Here’s what CaringBridge CEO, Sona Mehring, had to say about her company’s services and the inspiration that was the catalyst for the site’s creation.

Helpful Online Support Networks for Caregivers

Question: Why is community important while people undergo health events?

Sona Mehring: The value of a network of family and friends, even during the healthiest of times, is well established. So when facing a diagnosis and ongoing treatment, an individual’s reliance on the support of his or her personal circle for emotional, and sometimes physical, strength becomes even more important. This is when CaringBridge communities rally. In a survey of CaringBridge users, 99% of patients who responded said that reading the guestbook messages from their community of support on their CaringBridge sites positively impacted their health journey.

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Question: How did CaringBridge get its start? What was the inspiration to start the organization?

SM: In 1997, good friends of mine had a pre-mature baby. They asked me to let everyone know what was happening. Instead of making emotional and time draining phone calls, I created a website. In fact, the same night their baby Brighid was born the first CaringBridge site was started.

CaringBridge instantly became a connection point in ways that were extremely personal and powerful for everyone. The site allowed family members to communicate information to a wide circle of people. They posted daily journal entries and the guestbook enabled visitors to send the family messages of love and encouragement.

It was obvious that CaringBridge could help any family going through a health event – not only by letting everyone know what was happening, but also by bringing that loving, supportive community together. CaringBridge could let them be there without the barrier of when, where and how. It’s vital that anyone going through any type of health event knows about CaringBridge

Question: What exactly is CaringBridge and why would someone use the CaringBridge services?

SM: CaringBridge is a social network keeping families and loved ones connected during any type of health event. The CaringBridge mission is to amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier.

CaringBridge services are available online 24/7 to anyone, anywhere at no cost.

  • CaringBridge Sites
    CaringBridge provides sites where people can create a blog to post health updates. People are able to stay connected and leave supportive messages during any health event, big or small, acute or long-term.
  • SupportPlanner
    The CaringBridge SupportPlanner helps family and friends coordinate care and organize tasks, such as bringing a meal, taking care of pets and other needs.

Question: Who can benefit from using CaringBridge? What are some of the benefits to people using CaringBridge?

SM: We’re here for anyone who is coping with illness: big or small, short term or long, for as long as you need.

The benefits of include:

  • Simplify an emotional time: CaringBridge eases communication and encourages love and support when it matters most.
  • Have a safe, personal space: You can share as much or as little as you choose on your protected site.
  • Put support in motion: Tap into your community of support during a health event. It’s your very own health social network.
  • We’re better together: We are a nonprofit, thanks to individuals and families who donate.

Question: Is a CaringBridge website easy for family and friends to create?

SM: Yes, creating a CaringBridge website is quick and easy.   Anyone can create online or through the CaringBridge iPhone or Droid apps.

Question: How do you see technology being used by caregivers, patients and families in the future? Any changes from now?

SM: Technology will continue to become more and more integrated in everyone’s lives, including aspects related to health. It will become (and on some levels already is) an expectation during any health journey.  Having connection to your friends and family — anywhere and everywhere they are — will continue to be a cornerstone during a health journey.  Technology with in-home monitoring and treatment will also continue to grow.

About CaringBridge.org:This non-profit organization offers an online space where people can connect, share news and receive support. The site is a health social network, coming together on a personalized website. And thanks to those who donate, CaringBridge is available 24/7 to anyone, anywhere, at no cost.

Hopefully this excellent resource will help your family in your time of need. And if you or a loved one needs to find respite care, contact one of our expert Senior Living Advisors online or by calling 877.311.6099.

Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen

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