Why It Is So Important to be a Patient Advocate for Your Loved One

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Why It Is So Important to be a Patient Advocate for Your Loved One

When a loved one is ill, you can play a critical role by being their patient advocate. This means working with the medical team to help ensure all goes well

By Carol Kalat
Doctor Weighs In
May 16, 2019

Seeing a loved one suffer from a medical condition is so very difficult. This is especially true if there isn’t much in your control that you can do to alleviate their pain. It is important to remember, however, that although you may not be able to cure their disease or take away their pain, you can become their patient advocate.

Six things you can do as a patient advocate to ensure that your loved one is receiving the best possible care

1. Educate and organize

Depending on the condition of the patient, many times they are solely dependent on the care of others. This is where your job as a patient advocate comes in to play.

Although the medical advancements and healthcare technology of today continues to boggle the human mind in its sheer brilliance and complexity, they still do not and cannot take the place of a human helper.

Here are some tasks you may find yourself doing as a patient advocate:

    • As the advocate for your loved one, you need to educate yourself about the condition the patient is suffering from so you can be there to question the doctors and nurses (in a respectful manner) if you are unsure as to what is going on, or do not agree with the course of treatment. You have the right to understand what is being done in terms of their medical care.
    • Another job of a patient advocate is to keep everything organized in their medical life. When someone is dealing with a serious illness, there are endless doctors’ visits, medication schedules, and more. Being on top of everything and making sure nothing falls through the cracks is crucial for quality patient care.
    • On a more practical level, being on top of hospital bills and navigating the often confusing world of health insurance is another important role you will play as a healthcare advocate for your loved one.

In the world of health insurance, there are times when you will have to seriously advocate for the patient to receive the proper treatment and tests. Unfortunately, there are times when the insurance company is unwilling to pay for a particular test which can be crucial for the patients care.

As an advocate, you will need to use your voice to fight for coverage of the procedure or test that can sometimes spell the difference between recovery, or not.

2.  Be present

You know your loved one best. By being present throughout their medical treatments, whether it is in a hospital setting or doctor visits, you can ensure that they feeling comfortable at all times. You can pick up on their mood and feelings based on facial expressions and nuanced behaviors that only someone who knows them well can detect. The nurses’ care, but they are busy and cannot put all their focus on one patient. You are there just for your loved one and are exclusively available to tend to their needs and concerns.

Especially if your loved one is suffering from dementia, having a familiar face present will help keep them feeling safe and secure. Many times those in a confused state or those in pain have a hard time expressing their needs and concerns. Only someone close with them can understand what may be bothering them and see to it that their issue is addressed properly.

3. Work with the medical team

When the family of the patient is allied with the medical care team, the patient’s care plan can be executed more easily. At the end of the day, being on the same page regarding the care plan as well as on board with all that you may need to do can be critically important to the patient’s overall care.

In addition, being involved in all aspects of your loved one’s medical care allows you to see the course of treatment and stay on top of coordinating all their care. There are times when mistakes can be detected and averted as a result of your bird’s-eye view of the treatment plan.

4. Stay positive

Showing your support and genuine care for the well-being and recovery of your loved one will help her get better quicker. Studies show that those who have a more positive outlook on life, in general, have more positive outcomes when struck by a serious disease.

Your positive, comforting presence can help put your loved one in a better frame of mind. This will, in turn, may help them have a more positive attitude. It will also give them a greater chance of a positive outcome in their recovery. Try to keep your loved one upbeat. Provide them with the encouragement and hope that everything will be okay.

It is truly amazing how the mind possesses tremendous powers that it can actually change the physical state of the body. Dr. John E. Sarno wrote several books on the topic of healing back pain through your mind, and his theory can be applied to many conditions. This an enormously powerful tool that if utilized properly will make the situation more pleasant for all.

5. Be visibly active

When the medical team sees a family that is actively involved in the health care of their patient, they, in turn, do their job with greater dedication.

Show your appreciation to the nurses, doctors or health aides. It will go a long way. Medical professionals work tirelessly on behalf of their patients. It is often an exhausting and thankless job.

Show your thanks via a box of chocolate or some other small gift. This can encourage them to look out for your loved one and provide better care.

In general, it is against policy for nurses and doctors to accept large or expensive gifts. However, small gestures of appreciation are usually ok and much appreciated!

The bottom line

Be there for your loved one, advocate for them, and spend time with them as it’s crucial for their recovery. And if you were in their situation you would want them to be there for you.

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