9 Ways to be a Strong Health Care Advocate

When your loved one is diagnosed with a serious health care complication, there is nothing worse. You want to do everything you can to support him or her through this challenging time. Going to the doctor, filling prescriptions, finding answers, and coordinating with loved ones, is just the start of the tasks that need to be completed.

When your loved one is facing something as serious such as a terminal condition or a chronic health care diagnosis, you maybe asking yourself – what can I do to make a difference? We hear this question from our clients, friends, professionals we work with, and even our own family. As attorneys and counselors at law, we know just how important it is to get the answers you need. This is why we want to share with you nine ways that you can be a strong health care advocate for your loved one when he or she needs you the most.

1. Seek additional help and get support early. When it comes to caring for a loved one, you need as much help as you can possibly get. Although many of the caregivers we know want to start by doing it all themselves, do not fall into this trap. Instead, take the time to ask others around you for help. Don’t hesitate to give them tasks of what they can do when they ask you for them.

2. Ask for second (and third) opinions. Get the medical support that your loved one needs. Doctors do not know everything. There may be a time when your instinct tells you a diagnosis is not correct or there is not enough information for you to feel comfortable. Do not wait to ask to see an additional specialist or for second, third, or fourth, opinions.

3. Authorize decision makers. There are stringent rules when it comes to privacy for healthcare decisions. Do not be caught flat-footed. You also do not want to wait for a time when your loved one may not have the capacity to give you legal authority to act for him or her. Meet with an estate planning attorney now to get powers of attorney, healthcare documents, and the HIPAA release signed so you have authority to act for your loved one.

4. Be patient. This will not be an easy time for anyone. The key is to be as patient as possible. Listen to your loved one, what providers say, and see if it’s nice. At all times, try not to lose your cool. Get as much information as you can in a calm manner and, even though you will be under a tremendous amount of stress, be patient with those around you.

5. Persevere. Never give up. We know this has been said in countless ways by countless people, but it is very true for the healthcare setting. Get the answers you need, try to avoid becoming discouraged, and support those around you. Persevere through the challenges and get the answers that you need for critical decisions.

6. Learn the facts. Do not wait to learn as much as you can about the condition your loved one is facing. Things change over time and so do treatments for the condition your loved one may be diagnosed with. Do your research. Learn as much as you can from as many sources as possible, and then discuss them with your doctor to find out which ones can actually help your loved one.

7. Do not take no for an answer. There will be times when you need something completed by another person for your loved one’s condition, and it will not be done. There are numerous reasons for this but the key step here is to not take “no” for an answer. Get to the bottom of the problem, finding a solution, and get the help that you need. The answer “no” can be a roadblock and as the advocate you need to find a way around it.

8. Identify the problem. Your loved one may face a challenge or issue that is not routine in the course of treatment that is prescribed for him or her. Listen to your loved one and learn what the challenge is that he or she is facing. Get as much information as you can so that you can work with healthcare providers to identify the problem. Bear in mind that diseases and health care issues manifest differently for everyone. Your loved one may have complications that are not the normal course of business. Do not let unusual circumstances stop you from getting the help that they need.

9. Listen to your loved one. Although this seems like a simple suggestion, at times it may not be. The key here is to actively listen to your loved one. What is impacting him or her right now? What has helped? What continues to be a challenge? Schedule time to check in with him or her to make sure that he or she has the necessary support. Be compassionate and let your loved one know that you’re there for him or her at any time.

We know this may not be an easy time for you. If this article raises more questions than it answers, do not wait to ask us your questions. You may schedule a meeting with attorney Donna Wilson at anytime to get the help that you and your loved ones need.