How to be a Healthcare Advocate

Amanda Lambert - March 14, 2019 09:39 AM

As a caregiver, you undoubtedly find yourself in doctor’s offices. Perhaps even emergency rooms. These settings can be very intimidating, but learning how to advocate is a critically important skill. One that will help not only your family member, but you as well.

Why is Advocating Important?

Healthcare systems are confusing and disconnected. Taking the time and making the effort to advocate will reap rewards.

·       Being an advocate lets the healthcare provider know that someone is holding them accountable.

·       Asking questions gives you the information you need to make informed and responsible decisions.

·       The more you learn about healthcare conditions, the better prepared you will be to ask about alternative treatments and interventions.

What are the Characteristics of a Good Advocate?

No one appreciates the bull in the china closet! The ultimate goal of advocating is to get the best and most appropriate care. These tips will help:

·       Make a list of questions and concerns before the appointment and bring a notebook with you. (more on this in the next section.)

·       Be calm and measured. “You catch more bees with honey than vinegar.” There is a time to become more urgent in tone, but only after exhausting all of the “nice” options.

·       Don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions. At least they may seem stupid, but they aren’t. You should feel satisfied at the end of any appointment that all your questions are answered.

·       Healthcare providers are busy. Don’t let the anxiety of time constraints keep you from getting the information you need.

·       Always ask who to call if there are additional questions or concerns later. Try to get a name of the nurse or case manager with direct phone number

How To Prepare For Healthcare Visits

Be prepared ahead of time. You can’t be a good advocate without taking the time to inform yourself about the visit. Gather as much information as possible ahead of time. Write everything down.

·       Bring a list of medications. You will be asked for this list even if the provider has access to this information. They will want to know about any changes to medications.

·       What is the purpose of the visit? Identify symptoms and when they occurred or worsened.

·       If you are the caregiver for a family member, allow that person to give as much information as possible. Encourage the health care provider to speak directly to the person themselves. You may need to provide clarification during the visit, and don’t hesitate to do so. A respectful way to do this is to say “do you mind if I add some information to what you have told the doctor?”

·       Ask for a solution or plan of action. If you need doctor’s orders, make sure you get them during the visit. Ask about what to do if symptoms don’t improve or worsen.

·       Keep a journal of healthcare visits and outcome of each visit.

With time, you become more familiar and comfortable in healthcare settings. And you will have gathered invaluable information about the person you are caring for. Remember, all of these same principles apply to your healthcare as well!

Amanda Lambert is the owner and president of Lambert Care Management, LLC which provides care management for older and disabled adults. She is the co-author of, Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). She has worked for over 20 years in the senior-related industry including mental health, marketing, and guardianship. She has a passion for topics related to health, wellness and resilience as we age.



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