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Healthcare Advocate for Family: How to be One

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Healthcare Advocate

Last Updated on October 6, 2021 by ashley.davis

Introduction

Sooner or later, you will need to be a healthcare advocate for family. This can happen following a crisis or as part of a slow decline. Healthcare advocacy takes many forms. It can be as simple as calling to get an update on a doctor’s appointment, or it can be as intense as being in the emergency room with your family member. Healthcare settings are intimidating and confusing. It can feel like a jungle out there, but we have you covered with everything you need to know to handle advocacy like a pro.
 

Why is Advocacy Important?

As much as we would like to believe that our healthcare system is coordinated and streamlined, it isn’t. Different systems don’t always communicate with one another. Multiple providers complicate the situation by not always coordinating care. Advocacy improves the care your family member receives.

  • Being an advocate lets the healthcare provider know that someone is holding them accountable. Through no fault of their own, healthcare providers are extremely busy. Your presence will help them focus on your family member’s care. Most providers are happy to have someone to advocate. It makes their job easier knowing someone will help clarify information and reinforce the treatment plan.
  • Ask questions. This gives you and your family members the information you need to make informed decisions. If your healthcare professional doesn’t answer your questions to your satisfaction, it might be time for a second opinion.
  • The more you learn about healthcare conditions, the better prepared you are. You don’t have to be an expert, but being educated shows that you have an interest and investment in the person you are advocating for. 
A healthcare advocate looking after a senior woman

Characteristics of a Good Healthcare Advocate for Family

To start being a good advocate, you have to have the authority to act on your family member’s behalf. Due to federal confidentiality laws, this is a legal necessity. There are two ways to accomplish this. The first is to get your family member’s written permission to speak with each and every provider. The other approach is to get a healthcare power of attorney. This document gives you the legal authority to communicate with every healthcare provider. Once you have the legal authority to speak on someone’s behalf, keep these other tips in mind:

Make a list of questions and concerns before the appointment

Bring a notebook with you, or take notes on your phone and write down the information you learn during the appointment. You may be surprised at how much is covered in a 15-minute appointment!

Make sure that your family member has a chance to express their concerns

Taking over the conversation will only make your parents feel ignored or disempowered. Be patient and allow them to speak for themselves.

Be calm and clear

Start by being friendly and confident. If you begin the conversation in a negative way, it will set a negative tone. 

Don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions

There won’t be an opportunity later, so make sure you are completely satisfied before you leave. Healthcare providers are very busy. Take the time you need to get your questions answered. Request an aftercare summary if one isn’t offered.

Ask for contact information

If you need more information later, ask who to contact and how to do it. Some online patient charts allow the patient to contact their provider directly.

Coordinate Care if Necessary

Don’t assume that communication will happen automatically. Follow up on any referrals to make sure they happen.

Consider Hiring a Professional

If no other family members live close by, you might have to consider getting Home Care for your loved ones. A professional care manager can be a great healthcare advocate replacement option. Depending on the severity of the case, you may even consider a Live-in caregiver.

Healthcare advocate holding hands of senior family member


How to Prepare for Healthcare Visits

The best way to prepare for any healthcare visit is by having as much information and being as organized as possible ahead of time.

  • Bring a list of medications. Your healthcare provider will likely go through the list with you to make certain that your records coincide with theirs. to the list. Going through medications is an essential part of making certain that your family member is taking medications as prescribed. Also, include information on any other healthcare providers that your family member sees.
  • Prepare for your visit by knowing what the purpose is. . If the visit is to discuss new symptoms or problems, make sure you know what those are. When did the symptoms occur, and when did they worsen?
  • Encourage your loved one to participate as much as possible. A healthcare provider will naturally defer to you as the family caregiver, but it is important to encourage interaction from your loved one during the visit.  

Family members can be very sensitive to being ignored during physician visits, but it is also not unusual for them to give inaccurate information. The way to handle this with sensitivity is to ask if you can clarify information. If necessary, you can call the doctor’s office before the scheduled visit to provide any sensitive information that might be embarrassing to discuss during the visit. 

  • Ask for a plan of action. If you need a doctor’s order for home health or a prescription, make sure you get it before leaving the office. Find out who to contact if symptoms get worse or don’t resolve. Keep a journal of healthcare visits. Include all the discussions, any referrals, and subsequent appointments. Don’t forget about medication changes.


Conclusion

Being a healthcare advocate takes time. Whether you are doing it yourself or working with a professional, communication is critical. If there are siblings or other interested family members, make sure you communicate important healthcare information with them. Your confidence will grow, and these same principles will apply to your own healthcare as well!

The experienced senior advisors with BoomersHub can help you with any queries that you may have. Reach out to us if you need any help!

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