Making medical decisions for yourself and your loved ones can be overwhelming, especially when there’s a senior involved. It can be intimidating to advocate for your loved ones when dealing with doctors and medical providers in positions of authority. While these providers almost always have your loved one’s interest at heart, they are busy professionals with lots of cases on their plates. So making sure that your loved one gets what they need often falls to family members. The decisions of doctors and other medical providers used to be taken as gospel. But these days, patients and family members are learning to advocate for themselves to achieve the best possible outcomes. It is possible to respect providers while still focusing on your loved one’s best interests. Families are learning that asking questions and even challenging providers’ decisions are allowed and informing yourself is essential. Here are some important tips for advocating for your loved one in a medical setting.
One of the most important things to learn as a family member of someone dealing with an illness or medical event is that it’s okay to ask questions. So often, we are conditioned to hold back important questions and accept medical providers’ decisions. But you are the one who knows your loved one best and can get the best results by asking questions like these and others:
- What are the options for my loved one after a hospitalization?
- How can we make sure that her rehab is as safe and effective as possible?
- What services are covered by Medicare and/or private insurance?
Most medical providers welcome questions. If they don’t, you may want to consider making a switch.
Going to meetings and appointments with doctors, caseworkers or hospital staff can be intimidating. Having a second person present can give your loved one the confidence they need to ask the right questions and create a supportive and collaborative atmosphere. Moral support is key, and two heads are almost always better than one in coming up with questions and solutions.
This is one of the most important rules of thumb for patients and family members. Paperwork can be annoying, but it’s the best way to make sure that important services are moving forward.
- Keep a file of important paperwork to bring to meetings, including correspondence with providers and insurance companies.
- Ask for and save copies of important test results and diagnoses.
- Keep a notebook and take notes at meetings.
- Ask important questions by email so that there’s a written record.
Help Providers Get to Know Your Loved One
Your loved one’s doctors and caseworkers are usually committed and compassionate people, but every client is one of many. They may not have time to get to know every patient as an individual and may be missing important details about that person’s home life. Sometimes providers assume that everyone has a strong network at home, which is often far from true. For example, if your doctor does not suggest short term rehab after joint replacement surgery or stroke, it’s up to family members to ask about it. Doctors may not realize your loved one has no one at home to care for them and should be in a short-term rehab facility while they regain strength.
Do Your Research
The more you understand about your loved one’s diagnosis or condition, the better you’ll be able to advocate for them and communicate effectively with providers. This includes having a better understanding of possible treatments and options for care. If your loved one is recovering from an illness or surgery or has a chronic illness, the more you research options like short-term rehab, long-term care, financing options and insurance coverage, the better you can help them make informed decisions.
Be Present and Pay Attention
Be present and observe what’s going on with your loved one, whether they’re in a hospital, a short-term rehab or long-term care setting. Regular visits are the best way to get to know staff and find out what’s going on. Ask about the therapies they are receiving and their daily schedule. Write down what medications they’re on and ask to be informed if things change. This will help you make informed choices moving forward.
Evergreen Health & Rehab: Empowering Advocates
At Evergreen, our goal is to help clients live their best lives, whatever their diagnosis or length of stay. We see ourselves as advocates for our patients, but we know that the best advocates are often family members. They know their loved ones best and can help them make decisions to move them forward in healing. We know that the transition from hospital to home can be a tough one and it’s easier when you have the best information at hand. For our staff, dealing with well-informed clients and family members is a pleasure, and we welcome questions and involvement. Providers, skilled nursing facilities and families are all on the same team, but no one knows your loved one like you do. There’s no better way to achieve a positive outcome than to be actively involved.