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Being a Medical Advocate: Be Prepared and Trust Your Feelings

AdvocateBeing an advocate can sound like a daunting task, but in many ways you are already an advocate. When you go to the deli counter, do you simply let the employee behind the counter choose your order for you? No! You kindly request what you need each time. When you take your car to the mechanic, you tell them your concerns and the services you would like to have done. You are self-advocating — making your needs known and receiving what you need.

Has your child ever faced a challenge in school? Perhaps he or she came home and filled you in on a struggle. As the parent, you have a unique viewpoint and the ability to express your child’s needs more effectively than he or she can. When you reach out to a teacher or principal, you are being an advocate for your child.

Anyone can be an advocate. An advocate is simply a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of another — and sometimes for ourselves. Advocacy often comes naturally, but I know for many facing medical concerns, advocating for yourself or others requires careful planning and research.

The key outcomes of advocacy are:

  1. You obtain what you need.
  2. You make choices.
  3. You say no.
  4. You respectfully disagree.

In medical advocacy, an advocate is looking for outcomes in the areas of:

  1. Safety
  2. Information
  3. Medical treatment

Let’s talk about how you can be an effective advocate for medical needs. Doing a little prep work can make your role as an advocate simpler. Start by creating a book that contains all the information related to the person’s care. This is the best way I know to stay organized. Having a book allows you to easily provide up-to-date information to all care providers.

Include the following in your book:

  • Name and contact information of the primary physician
  • Names and contact information for specialists
  • Home health care information
  • Names and contact information for therapists
  • A list of medication names, dosages and schedules for administering
  • Dates and prescriber names for medications
  • Pharmacy information
  • A list of medication and food allergies
  • A list of impairments — include mobility, vision, hearing, elimination and skin damage

When the person you are advocating for needs to make an appointment, gather the following information:

  • The primary need for the appointment
  • How far out the appointment can be scheduled
  • Any lab work or tests to be completed before the appointment
  • A list of concerns and questions to be answered at the appointment
  • Any needed assistance such as special transportation

At the appointment, you can assist in the following ways:

  • Ask questions and document the answers in the care book. (Think when, where, why, what and how.)
  • Discuss and document lab and test results and the need for further testing.
  • Provide personalized assistance (help in and out of vehicles, help completing forms due to a vision impairment, etc.).
  • Schedule follow-up appointments.

Sometimes you’ll find that things just don’t feel right. Learn to trust your gut. Ask questions, honor your emotions and really consider if the current plan of care meets yours or your loved one’s needs. It can be hard to learn to question, but if something feels out of whack, you need to speak up. Get a second opinion if necessary. You can do it, and you can make a difference.

Be prepared, ask questions and trust your intuition.

On July 7th, from 1pm to 4pm, Aging Together will present The Home Care Provider Workshop in The Sycamore Room at Fauquier Hospital.  I will be speaking about advocacy and how this relates to taking the best care of yourself or someone you love. This event is free. For more information contact me, Karen David.

A nurse for more than 25 years, Karen David is a Certified Wellness Coach and Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist. She brings her passion for well living and calm presence to empower others in Health and Wellness. Karen is CEO of Live Life Well, LLC.

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