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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

The caregiver as advocate


September 19, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

For caregivers, the demands of direct care – getting to doctors’ appointments, filling prescriptions, helping with shopping, cooking, eating and housekeeping, and more -- can seem overwhelming. But there is another role that can be just as important – that of patient advocate.

Often people living with health conditions have a limited ability to speak on their own behalf. Some have cognitive deficits; others are simply too busy getting through each day. Caregivers often need to step in.

Here are some of the ways you can be an effective advocate.

  • Begin by checking with the person that they’re comfortable with you speaking on their behalf with care providers.
  • Ensure that the person continues to be involved and understands his or her condition and options.
  • Get to know the care team and keep communication open.

Medical appointments:
  • Schedule appointments at the best time of day for the person with the health condition.
  • Go prepared, with a list of medications and supplements, any changes in symptoms or behaviour, and any specific questions or concerns.
  • Help the person communicate with the health providers, but don’t take over.
  • Ask questions and take notes. When you see a blank look, probe further.
With home care providers:
  • Let them know the person’s likes and dislikes.
  • Ensure they know you are the go-to person and can reach you at any time.
  • Monitor care. Don’t hesitate to raise concerns. And don’t forget to express appreciation when things go well.
In the hospital:
  • Provide vital information including a health card, a list of medications, advanced directives, and doctors’ contact information.
  • Bring the person’s glasses, hearing aid and dentures.
  • Ensure that providers know that you are the go-to person and can reach you at any time.
  • If the person is acting more confused than normal, let the medical team know immediately. Be aware of the signs of delirium.
  • If new medications are prescribed, ask why and what the possible side effects are.
  • Ask questions and take notes. Ask providers for their business cards, so you have their names and contact information.
  • Be calm and positive, but firm. As puts it, “You are not at the hospital to make friends: you are there to get your parent the best care for them.”