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Three Ways to Advocate for Elders

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Everyone who is a caregiver to an elder or other person with special needs has to be an advocate also.  In my first blog posting, I spoke about what a geriatric care manager does on behalf of the elder or their families, and one of the principal duties is to advocate on behalf of our clients.  In this posting, I offer a few of the ways that all caregivers can advocate on behalf of their loved one to assure the best healthcare and quality of life.

As an advocate for an elder, you need to be more than just the person who gets an older parent to and from a provider’s health care appointment.  As long as the elder confirms that you can attend the appointment, you can be present, and you should use that opportunity to take notes and ask questions. 

  1. As an advocate, you will want to be as knowledgeable as

    possible about any medical issues that affect your loved one, and that includes

    asking questions of physicians and others as well as doing searches

    on-line.  And be organized.  Write your questions down before an

    appointment, and don’t be shy about asking them.  If you don’t understand

    the answer, ask for clarification.  It is the responsibility of a caregiver

    to be a “knowledge partner” in the health care of a loved one.

  2. As an advocate, another important function you can provide is

    continuity of care.  On an ongoing basis, attend all visits to the elder’s

    primary care physician as well as any specialists they may see.  Ask

    questions when a health care provider observes something or makes an assessment

    that may conflict with what another physician has said or is at odds with what

    you have observed day to day.  And this latter part is key.  Because a

    caregiver or a geriatric care manager can be there day to day, they will see

    things that a health care provider may not observe at an annual or semi-annual

    visit.  Speak up.

  3. As an advocate, the records you keep may not be medical files like a health care provider’s office keeps, but as a caregiver you become the central depository of everyone’s information and inputs.  Keep current on all prescriptions as well as over the counter drugs your loved one may be taking.  And have that information – or a distillation of it – available when you meet with providers.  And you may also have to be the one to discreetly let a provider know if your loved one is unable or has been unwilling to comply with prescriptions or other directions.

The common thread here for all of this advocacy is that a caregiver should not – and a geriatric care manager – will not keep quiet.  Ask questions, provide information and be persistent if you feel you are not being heard. 

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families throughout metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.

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