How to Be an Effective Health Care Advocate to Your Aging Parents

By Tom Lee, 1:39 pm on
A daughter being an an effective health care advocate too her father

Home care expert Amy Goyer shares five very helpful tips in her article, “How to be an effective advocate for aging parents,” that you can utilize when searching for home care for your loved one.

Goyer’s advice can help you become an expert on family matters and caregiving. Her advice comes from her being deeply involved in the life of her father, who is 93 and living with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

Caregiving Advocacy

Amy begins the article by stating that “Caregiving can be overwhelming.” Family members are typically involved with many different aspects of a loved one’s life – you could be involved in scheduling appointments and transporting your loved one around, or even cleaning house. Many individuals who are dealing with a decline in a family member’s daily abilities may also have to become a de-facto nurse until the situation at hand settles down. You may soon be dealing with what is known as “caregiver burnout.”

“Perhaps the most important role, though,” Goyer writes, “is an advocate, as we ensure the best life possible for our family and friends when they are vulnerable.”

If you have not been a health advocate before, you may endure some stress when thinking about the requirements. However, the responsibilities when advocating for an elderly loved one tend to start out modestly and increase as time goes on.

Being a great advocate is a learned skill. Being a great caregiver takes time, and these skills can be picked up as you learn; just be patient! Whether you are caring for someone day by day, or whether you are a long-distance caregiver, you will slowly but surely become a better health advocate.

A measure of courage is important in this recipe for success. But know that there are many rich rewards from knowing that you have what it takes to step up to the plate and do the right thing for your loved one, just as they would do for you.

Five Important Skills to Learn as a Care Advocate

Amy Goyer suggests the following approaches when becoming a care advocate:

  1. Detective work may begin the journey to great advocacy. Goyer describes that the slightest shift in abilities regarding your senior loved one can often point to a much larger problem or health challenge. Pay close attention to the services that they are utilizing or requesting. If these services are not what you would expect for your loved one, act now and make a change. To be an effective observationalist Amy recommends:
    • Always get enough rest
    • Be mindful through a consistent meditation practice
    • Write down what you see and hear regarding your loved one
  2. Organization. These tasks can differ but could include things like “manage caregiving team members, make task lists and organize the mounds of paperwork associated with health care, legal and financial matters.” Being organized can be difficult, especially when you’re handling complicated matters like medication. If you need help getting organized, try the following:
    • Enroll in an organization How-To course
    • Hire a professional organizer
    • Enlisting family members to help organize
    • Download a caregiver-organizer app such as CareZone, CaringBridge or LotsaHelpingHands
  3. Communication. Communicating with a variety of people is critical if you want to be a health advocate. You want to ensure that communication is sound amongst family members, health care providers, and even attorneys. These conversations may often be difficult. To be a better communicator, remember:
    • Respect is the foundation of a good relationship
    • Sticking with facts can help hinder an emotional conversation
    • Effective communication is grounded in being a good listener
    • Being both clear and brief is essential to being a better communicator
  4. Questioning. It is interesting to note that Amy Goyer’s father was a professor during his working years. In his office hung a sign that said, “Question everything.” Amy writes, “My family’s doctors and service providers will attest that I ask plenty of questions!” To master the art of asking questions:
    • Be an avid learner regarding everything your loved one is experiencing
    • Always write down your questions
    • Ask for clarification when it is needed
    • Write down details regarding conversations
  5. Tenacity. Persistence will help you become a successful health advocate. Getting the answers that you want will help you achieve an optimal result. But always remember to keep going. Your loved one is counting on you. In order to develop a dogged persistence:
    • Outline goals clearly and focus on your solutions
    • Make sure to include individuals who care about you and who are in your corner
    • Get involved in the caregiving community. This way you can share your stories of success and hear the success stories of others
    • Be mindful of your attitude
    • Pay heed to these words of wisdom from Amy Goyer: “When caregiving knocks you down, get back up again. Resilience is success.”

Being a Healthcare Advocate is Rewarding

While you may not have expected that you would become a caregiver, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. This predicament is filled with challenges and may often be scary, but when it is built on a foundation of compassion and persistence, advocacy can be the best gift you will ever give a loved one.

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