Washington University, St Louis, Division of Palliative Medicine and LMHPCO are teaming up to test a Facebook support group for Caregivers of Hospice Cancer Patients. Researchers at Washington University recently completed a pilot clinical trial testing online Facebook groups with over 200 caregivers. We successfully decreased caregiver depression by more than 10%! We have also completed a survey of more than 200 hospice social workers from 39 states and discovered that they report they do not have the time or the training to provide this service.  


What Does the Facebook Support Group Involve?

We have published our protocol for these groups in the Journal of Social Work in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. This Facebook group will be facilitated by a our team. It is designed to provide both social support and information specific to hospice. All information has been vetted by a certified hospice medical director and a hospice advanced practice nurse. We use both dramatic video and various articles to provide this information. We provide discussion questions and caregiving tips. Caregivers also help one another by creating an online community. We use a private Facebook page so we control the content and the membership of the group, protecting privacy from those outside the group. We have a list of guidelines that members agree to and in the pilot have not once have had they them been violated.


Do family caregivers use the Internet?

More caregivers than you might imagine use Facebook, often to stay in touch with family. In fact, older adults are the fastest rising age group on Facebook. While they may not have computers, many older adults access the internet via their tablets or cell phones. Even in rural areas, we have found good access for more than 90% of those interested. Finally, we provide coaching for how to use Facebook, solve technical issues, and secure privacy settings.


Is there a cost to participate?

Barnes Jewish Hospital Foundation in St. Louis currently funds this project and thus there is no cost for participation.


As a Hospice Professional, How do I make this referral/connection? How can I get my family caregivers involved?



 1.     You can help enroll your family caregiver in the group with this QR Code. Just scan the code and answer a few questions and the facilitator will review it and contact you or the family to get them set up (you tell  us your preference?).

 2.     You can give your family caregiver the below email address (below) and/or phone number for the group facilitator and they your caregiver can contacts the facilitator directly. to join.

 3.     You can email or text your family caregiver contact information and the facilitator will be happy to contact them and invite them to participation.

 Facilitator: Allison Donehower
Email: [email protected]
Text:  314.250.2331
Phone:  314.250.2331

 As a Hospice Professional, how can I stay involved with my family members’ referral to follow their participation?

1.     Please ask your family members during at your follow up visits; ask them if/ how they are enjoying the group.?

2.     Feel free to call the facilitator who will share information with you if the family member has given them permission.

 Whenever, If you have further questions please contact the facilitator using the information above.


Handout Materials to Hospice Families and Careegivers about the Support Groups
Downloadable Flyer1                            Downloadable Flyer2                    Downloadable Flyer3