Health Advocacy: How to Help Seniors Get the Care and Resources They Need
We all know how difficult it can be to keep track of doctor recommendations, medications, advice, insurance, and costs when we're dealing with our own medical care. Compound that with the confusion of dementia or reduced short term memory, and a decreased ability to communicate their needs and challenges, and the process for your senior becomes even more daunting. Your loved one depends on someone to help keep the big picture straight.
How can you be an effective advocate for your loved one?
Most importantly, you need to care! A health advocate can be a spouse, relative, friend, or caregiver that you trust. The older you are, the more important it is to have another person with you during visit. having two people hear the discussion and making sure they understand is much better than just one set of ears.
When you care about their health and general well-being, you are more inclined to ask to ask the deeper questions, seek out additional opinions, research other approaches, and push back on unnecessary expenses. Other helpful traits to have are good organizational skills, some free time, physical aptitude to bring your senior to and from multiple appointments, and social skills to work with various health professionals who are collaborating on your senior's care plan.
Health advocates, whether they are paid professionals, free placements, or family members, provider several services:
Coordinate with Medicaid, Medicare, and insurance companies
Help get the patient to doctor visits, testing, and procedures
Track prescriptions and help ensure they take proper amounts at correct times
Research alternative therapies and treatments and discuss options with the senior and their medical team
Make sure that things like Power of Attorney and Living Wills are in place
Pain advocates can provide the following additional help:
A complete assessment with care recommendations (usually completed in the senior's home)
Assistance finding appropriate housing and transitioning to the new living environment such as an assistive living facility
Reviewing all bills from medical professionals, hospitals, and insurance companies for accuracy
Identifying and securing community services such as Meals on Wheels, adult daycare, or wheelchair transportation services
Handling paperwork to ensure service delivery
Another very important part of advocacy is daily personal health advocacy. Checking in on their routine, health, weight and mobility, and prescriptions. You are an extension of your senior's mind and spirit, and will be able to be a better advocate for their health when in the doctor's office or at the pharmacy. Even if you are working with a professional advocate, you will be able to share this information.
One of the most important ways to advocate for your senior daily is helping with medication. Keep an eye out for these deterrents to taking their medications appropriately:
Memory: Brainstorm creative ways that will help them remember to take the medications - alarms, notes, or pill boxes
Vision: Sometimes they simply can't see well enough to read the correct dosing. Ask the pharmacist to print the labels in large print
Hearing: They may not want to admit that they can't hear the instructions the pharmacist or doctor is giving them. Be their ears.
Dexterity: Can they open the bottles easily and are the pills pre-split? Do they need your help administering eye drops or inhaled medications?
Swallowing: If your loved one has difficulty swallowing, follow up with their medical team to determine if there is a liquid, patch, or other form of dosing that can be used
What is a Professional Health Advocate?
There are often individuals with higher degrees in nursing, social work, or gerontology that help seniors with a variety of issues, including those related to medical, financial, and insurance problems. They may work out of an office, but will usually make home or facility visits. Our Certified Case Manager, Carrie Klaege, does just this! She is available to meet you wherever you are to make sure your needs are being met and to help you get where you need to be.
Questions for the Medical Team about Medications and Treatment:
How will I know that the treatment is working?
What are the potential side effects?
How will this medicine interact with other medications that my loved one is taking?
What is the cost of the medicine or treatment prescribed? Are there less expensive alternatives?
Do you have written information about the treatment that we can take home?
Call Southern Arizona Home Care today to get answers to your health advocacy questions! 520-261-8716