Connecticut Uses Social Media to Engage Long-term Care Residents

States continue to find COVID-19-safe ways to maintain communication with citizens

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the country, states continue to find ways to communicate with their communities and citizens about COVID-19, including the importance of getting vaccinated. The need to keep physically distant from one another has presented unique challenges for talking with people about the importance of vaccination. The Connecticut Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) turned to social media to educate and answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Mobile screenshot of a Facebook Live event

Connecticut Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, Mairead Painter delivers COVID-19 vaccine information to residents in long-term care facilities via Facebook Live.

LTCOP provides direct services to residents in Long-Term Care Facilities including monitoring and educating residents on state and federal laws and regulations that directly affect them. This work became even harder during the pandemic. Residents of long-term care facilities have been among the worst affected by the pandemic because they live in close physical proximity to each other and because they tend to be older.

Social media helped connect with long-term care residents

Many long-term care residents in Connecticut use Facebook to communicate with friends and family. LTCOP realized Facebook was an effective way to share health information because residents were already familiar with it.

To connect with residents of long-term care facilities and their families, Mairead Painter of the LTCOP partnered with colleagues from other state government agencies experts like Dr. Vivian Leung from the Connecticut Department of Public Health to hold weekly Facebook Live events. LTCOP also started posting recordings of the sessions on YouTube for residents who were unable to attend the Facebook Live events. These events have provided information for people in Long-Term Care Facilities and their families since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We realized early on that because we weren’t able to get into the nursing homes, it was going to be really hard for us to get information to the residents,” said Painter. “And the residents count on us for that unbiased, third-party opinion that they can base a lot of their decisions off of.”

Facebook Live allowed long term care facility residents and their family members were able to engage with experts and ask questions about the virus, the effects of the pandemic on their facility and, beginning in December, the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Leung recalled her time answering questions on the Facebook Live events.

“It’s [Facebook Live events] been a great way to hear directly from the long-term care communities and families themselves,” Leung said. “It gets really great reception. It’s a great platform to reach both families and residents at the same time and understand what their concerns are and then respond to them quickly.”

Ensure residents feel like they are part of the decision-making process

According to Painter, it was critical to have open communication and to brand information to look consistent with other materials coming from trusted departments in Connecticut. Painter’s advice for other government agencies looking to improve communication in their jurisdictions is to embrace technology for community engagement and getting messages out quickly.

“One of the things that I’ve been able to do, and that I’m trying to continue to do, is ensure that people know that residents want this to be done with them and not for them—that they have the right to be a part of the decisions that impact their lives,” said Painter. “Even though they’re individuals choosing to receive long-term services and support in community settings, like a nursing home, a residential care home, or an assisted living facility, it doesn’t mean that they want the decisions made for them.”

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