If your loved one is aging, hospitalized or otherwise dealing with the healthcare system, it’s normal to want to help and become their healthcare advocate. You may have the desire to ensure your loved one has the best experience and gets the best care possible. Many times a loved one may be asking for your guidance or seem to need support in making healthcare decisions.
Either way, it’s an important consideration to be someone’s healthcare advocate. It’s noble to want to help someone you care about as they go through a difficult health time, yet there are some important factors to consider.
Would You Make a Good Healthcare Advocate?
This question is not meant to be a judgment on you personally, but rather a question designed to have you think more carefully about this role. Certain characteristics make some people more effective healthcare advocates than others, and it’s wise to think about considerations to make sure this is a role you want to take on.
Considerations of being a healthcare advocate:
- Experience With the Healthcare System: You may be a good healthcare advocate for your loved one if you are knowledgeable about the medical system. Perhaps you have had a career within this field or you have been through a similar situation yourself. Especially if you have more experience with the system than the patient does, you may be a valuable asset to your loved one during this time.
- Confidence: Health care interactions often put people in situations that can be intimidating and overwhelming. Exuding confidence and being able to assert yourself without being arrogant is an essential part of being an advocate. You will be working as part of the healthcare team asking questions of providers and at times questioning whether a particular treatment course is right for your loved one.
- Articulate: Often, time with health professionals is limited. Consequently, communication is a critical part of the advocacy role. You need to really think about your communication and speech patterns. It is important to be able to compile information then summarize the situation to get to the point in a manner that others can follow and understand.
- Trust: It’s essential that there is trust between you and the person you will be advocating for. As the advocate, you will have access to private medical information and will need to act as a trustworthy voice between the patient and medical team, relaying each one’s perspective accurately and truthfully.
- Medical Conditions: You may be a good advocate if you have the same medical condition as the patient, giving you an understanding of the diagnosis and treatment options. You may also have connections with local healthcare teams in this specialty area. A different consideration is whether the patient has a medical condition that makes it hard for them to be their own advocate, in which case they may benefit from support through a loved one like you.
Tips for Acting as Your Loved One’s Health Advocate
If you decide to become your loved one’s advocate, or you simply start taking on the role informally, here are some tips to guide you through the process:
- Talk to your loved one about their healthcare wishes, preferences and goals.
- If possible, have your loved one identify you as a trusted contact with your physicians and medical system. It is important to have your name on record saying that medical professionals can communicate with you about your loved one.
- Keep a record of your loved one’s diagnosis, medications, doctors and other important information.
- Help your loved one with their medical visits. For example, you may help prepare and then accompany them to visits to hear the information the doctor shares.
- Open bridges of communication between yourself and key members of the healthcare team, and ask for medical updates to be shared with you. Electronic medical portals can make this process easier.
- Learn as much as you can about the diagnosis and treatment options.
- Collect notes on everything, including your loved one’s symptoms and information from doctors.
Do You Need Support?
It is helpful for a patient to have an advocate who navigates the healthcare system with them. However, this can also be a difficult position for a loved one and not a role that you want to take on alone. Consider getting the support of a trained, professional healthcare advocate who knows the system and how to navigate it. Ready to add an expert advocate to your team? Call us at Care Weavers now for a FREE assessment.