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.
- 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.
- 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 www.workingdaughter.com puts it, “You are not at the hospital to make friends: you are there to get your parent the best care for them.”