Caregiving is more than providing transportation or helping your loved one manage their finances. It is a continual pursuit of what is best for them – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Learning to advocate effectively on behalf of your parent may seem challenging at first, especially if you are new to caregiving. However, knowledge combined with practice can help you make sure your loved one’s needs are being met. Whether you’re attending a medical appointment with your parent, or caring for them during a hospital visit, here are some simple ways to advocate on behalf of your loved one. .
Becoming an effective advocate isn’t as difficult as it may sound. Amy Goyer, a caregiving expert for AARP, shares the following strategies that can help hone your advocacy skills.
Having a solid understanding of your loved one’s well-being is an essential part of advocating for their needs. With so many responsibilities vying for your attention, it can be difficult to notice small changes in your loved one’s mood or health. Making a habit of observing your loved one’s physical and mental condition can help you catch an illness earlier – when it is likely easier to treat.
From medical professionals to insurance company representatives, there are countless individuals you need to regularly communicate with as a caregiver. Work on building relationships with those who provide care, as well as the individuals who might be behind the scenes like schedulers and billers. Be respectful in your interactions, but also firm in pursuing what your loved one’s needs – whether it is a test, treatment, or other services.
Caregiving is a multi-faceted role with plenty of moving parts. On any given day you might need to make an appointment or follow-up on an insurance claim, in addition to helping your loved one with their medications and meals. A large amount of paperwork – receipts, bills, test results, and lab reports isn’t unusual, and requires sorting and filing. Creating a system that works for you can help you stay organized and relieve some of the stress associated with caregiving.
How to Advocate at the Doctor’s Office
Accompanying your loved one to medical appointments is often a routine part of the caregiving process. According to Care.com’s website, being an effective advocate for your parent or loved one should start with an open and honest discussion about their health and future wishes. If they are willing, completing an advanced directive will help streamline decisions that need to be made in the future.
You cannot advocate for your parent’s medical care without permission, so make sure your loved one completes the necessary forms for each doctor on their medical team. Bring your questions and observations regarding your parent’s condition to each appointment, and be prepared to take notes. Having an up-to-date list of medications – including supplements – is also a good idea.
Finally, remember that you know your loved one best. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, or request a second opinion, if you are unsure about a treatment being recommended.
How to Advocate During a Hospital Stay
Hospital stays can be frightening and disorienting – especially for older adults. If your loved one requires hospitalization, there is much you can do to support and help them feel as comfortable as possible. The following strategies can help you effectively advocate for your loved one while they are in the hospital.
- Be prepared. The chances your loved one will need to visit the ER increases as they grow older. Have a copy of their insurance cards, advance directive, and an up-to-date list of medications readily available. You might also want to consider packing a bag that you can quickly grab in case there is an emergency. Include water bottles, snacks, toiletries, a change of clothes, and any items that might comfort your loved one.
- Know who to talk to. Your loved one’s doctor (or team of doctors) is responsible for developing their treatment plan. For daily updates on how your loved one is doing, speak with the nurse who is providing care for your loved one. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you don’t understand information that is shared with you.
- Speak up. Let the team caring for your loved one know if they have special needs (hearing loss, vision impairment, etc.), a chronic illness (diabetes, dementia, etc.), or require extra assistance due to limited mobility. Make sure special dietary needs are communicated, as well.