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9 Ways to Advocate for Your Loved One in Healthcare

A senior couple having a consultation with a doctor at a desk.Patients in need of care aren’t always the most capable of being active participants in their care plan. They may be too young, or dealing with age-related issues like dementia, or even in too much pain to listen carefully, catch mistakes, or answer critical questions about their needs and wishes.

A medical advocate can ensure a patient receives adequate care, help doctors and other caregivers understand that person’s medical history and risk factors, or even help catch medical mistakes or signs of abuse.

1. Ask Questions

One of the best ways that you can represent your loved ones is by simply asking questions. These can be tough questions, such as asking what will happen if a certain procedure goes wrong. They can also be information-driven questions, such as requesting further details about possible healthcare alternatives.

Asking questions may sound easy, but it can often be a bit overwhelming. It requires researching both basic healthcare knowledge as well as detailed information about your loved one’s condition.

2. Answer Questions

Many questions come along with most healthcare procedures. This can be overwhelming for someone who is already dealing with a bad diagnosis, chronic pain, or another health concern.

As an advocate, this is a primary point for you to shine. Whenever possible, try to step into the gap and help provide answers. If routine information is required, such as filling out patient information, offer to do so for your loved one. If confusing questions are asked, step into the role of a mediator to help coax the information out of a parent or child in a manner that doesn’t add stress to the situation.

3. Take Notes

Another critical support activity comes in the form of taking notes. As you dialogue with a doctor or a surgeon about medications, rehabilitation procedures, dietary restrictions, and more, writing the information down can provide a physical record that you can return to.

4. Bring Medical Information

If a loved one is dealing with an unwelcome diagnosis, it can be overwhelming. This can make it easy to overlook basic things, like bringing crucial medical information along with you to an appointment with a new doctor or a visit to the emergency room.

As an advocate, you can try to ensure that every important piece of information is available when it’s called for. This includes past medical history, medications, personal information, and even ID cards.

5. Maintain Financial Information

While this is not always the case, at times you may also find yourself caring for your loved one’s finances. This can be a hands-on activity, such as budgeting or paying bills, or it can simply mean you’re working in a role to help with essential big-picture fiscal decision-making.

When this happens, you should do your best to shoulder as much of the financial burden as you reasonably can. This doesn’t mean you have to personally spend your money. However, you may be able to do routine tasks, like withdrawing money or replacing checks, as well as help look for discounts and ensure that things like medical insurance and bills are well in order.

6. Look Out for Mistakes

One of the most crucial activities that an advocate can undertake is to remain vigilant for mistakes. These can come in countless forms throughout a person’s medical journey. For instance, a prescription can be poorly written and require further clarification. Even then, it can be incorrectly filled out and should be checked before consumption.

Doctors and nurses are supposed to be on guard against errors like these. Nevertheless, it’s wise to treat yourself as a line of defense against unnecessary complications like a misread document. An advocate may be essential to recognizing abuse or neglect in seniors or patients unable to fully communicate or understand the care they are receiving.

7. Speak Up

From finding a dispensing error in your parent’s medication to asking questions to clarify your child’s diagnosis, there is one particular soft skill that all advocates should develop: the ability to speak up. Confidence is critical in medical situations. It’s easy to be bullied by an impatient doctor or hustled out of an appointment without the chance to ask questions.

As an advocate, it’s important to fight for your loved ones by being willing to speak up on their behalf. For instance, if you suspect that a senior individual is in a bad situation, don’t be afraid to broach the subject of relocating them to another nursing home.

8. Communicate Their Wishes

It’s easy to get swept up in your thoughts and priorities when serving as an advocate. However, you have to remember at all times that you aren’t talking about yourself. You’re representing someone else.

As such, you must strive to communicate their wishes — even above your own opinions and desired outcomes. You can always talk to your loved ones about their opinions behind closed doors, but once you’re face-to-face with a healthcare provider, it’s important to show a united front that has your loved one’s best interests in mind.

9. Don’t Give Up

Finally, remember that being an advocate will often result in unpleasant and uncomfortable situations. These are the times when your loved ones will need you the most.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve encountered ageism while working with a healthcare provider, you’re trying to get information on an alternative to a nursing home, or any other situation. If you stay strong and continue to fight for your loved ones, you will be able to continue to advocate for them until a satisfactory resolution is found.