Whether caring for an aging parent or helping a friend or spouse facing a diagnosis and treatment options, everyone needs an advocate at times. When any person is facing a diagnosis, surgery, or hospitalization, having such an advocate can be invaluable. Even if you are very savvy, there is a lot to absorb and consider in these situations. Here are some tips for you to be a good advocate:
1. Help gather important information. Help your loved one organize their medical records, health history and important documents (advance directives, insurance information).
2. If your loved one has not completed advance healthcare directives and decision making paperwork, encourage them to do so (including Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate/Power of Attorney, Living Will).
3. Help in preparation for the appointment, procedure, hospitalization (as feasible). Prepare purpose of the visit, symptoms, concerns, list of questions. For procedures or treatments, find out what to expect and ask questions. How long will you be there? What do you need to bring? Will the patient need a ride home? Will they need aftercare? While many people don't need formal aftercare, consider the challenges one ofte faces after a surgery or hospital stay. Often, you can drive the patient home and get them settled, but it may be easier to have additional help as you may need to pick up prescriptions or may not be able to help if the patient is very weak or ill.
4. After an appointment, use your notes to review what was discussed and consider next steps/pros and cons, for example regarding treatment options. It is important to help the patient think through things in a less rushed/stressful manner, when possible. If you are making decisions on behalf of a loved one who cannot do so any longer, have an advocate for yourself...someone you can talk things through with. Sometimes an outside party is best for this and can help you think through all the ramifications, and gain a clearer picture.
5. Help your loved one ascertain second opinions when needed. However, bogging someone down with a lot of information (or misinformation) from the internet, for example, can be less than helpful. It is most helpful to identify the most expert resources and assist in clarifying information and making a comfortable decision feeling informed, not overwhelmed.
6. Review this NY Times article about 6 questions to ask for elderly patients being hospitalized. If you cannot be with your loved one at the hospital or emergency room, it is a good idea to get a friend, relative or geriatric care manager to be there. This is not only for your loved one's well being, but to ensure the hospital staff gets the accurate information they need to do the best job.
If you need help with eldercare concerns, contact us today.