How to be an Advocate for Your Loved One’s Healthcare
Whether your loved one is facing a serious health crisis or simply living in a long-term care setting, it can be very helpful to have a family caregiver working as an advocate on their behalf. As someone ages or becomes ill, they often have more health issues to discuss. Having a second set of eyes and ears can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure the best of care.
To be an effective healthcare advocate, stay attentive and organized and follow the tips below.
Receiving a difficult diagnosis or hearing about a new plan of care can be overwhelming for a patient. As an effective healthcare advocate, you should ask questions about the information being provided. If something is unclear, ask that it be explained a second time. Ask about any benefits, disadvantages, side effects, recovery time, and follow-up care for any recommended treatment or procedure. If the person you are speaking with can’t answer your questions, ask to speak with someone who can.
Taking good notes goes hand in hand with asking questions when acting as an advocate for your loved one’s healthcare. Notes can help clear up confusion about instructions. It also allows you to research unfamiliar terms, treatments, and medications. Ask for a business card when meeting with a new care provider, and always note the name of the person you spoke to and the date of the conversation.
As a healthcare advocate, don’t just take notes at appointments. Take notes at home, during visits, and throughout your loved one’s care of things you want to ask at your next appointment or meeting so you don’t forget.
Maintain patient records.
While electronic medical records have made it easier than ever for physicians and pharmacies to communicate with each other, it’s still possible for information to be lost from one visit to the next. Keep your own copy of the patient’s medical records organized in a folder. It’s also helpful to keep a current list of all medications your loved one is taking along with the prescribed dosages and a list of any allergies they have.
You should also keep a list of the physicians and pharmacies your loved one is using along with current contact information for each. Copies of your loved one’s insurance cards are also helpful in case an office requests updated information.
Request regular updates.
When a loved one is admitted to a hospital or staying in a rehabilitation or long-term care facility, it is important to schedule regular updates on their care, especially if you can’t be with them each day. Talk to staff about the best way to communicate – whether it’s a daily phone call, emails, or text message updates. If you are unable to visit your loved one in person, request video chats. This allows you to continue to monitor their condition while also brightening your loved one’s day.
Watch out for mistakes.
As a healthcare advocate for your loved one, you can help lower the risk of medical errors, billing errors, and hospital-acquired infections. When staff administer medications, you should confirm what medication is being administered and the correct dosage. You can also remind staff to wash their hands or to close curtains to maintain your loved one’s health and dignity.
When your loved one receives a bill for care, be sure to review it closely to confirm that the information provided is correct with the correct type of care, medication, and date of service and address any errors with the billing department.
Make sure wishes are respected.
As a healthcare advocate for your loved one, your most important job is to make sure your loved one’s wishes are respected – by healthcare providers, other family members, and yourself. The best starting point for this is to have your loved one complete an advance directive and healthcare power of attorney. The advance directive makes their wishes around important decisions in their care clear, while the healthcare power of attorney allows the person they select to make decisions on their behalf if they are no longer able to communicate for themselves.
Most healthcare facilities will also ask that your loved one complete a HIPAA release form that names you as someone their staff can share private healthcare information with. You can also take the extra step of having a general HIPAA release form prepared and notarized for use when needed.
By working with your loved one as an advocate, you will help ease their minds when making decisions and ensure they have the best possible care.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides education and support to patients and families facing serious and terminal illness. To learn more about our services, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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