Being a Patient
Advocating for the Elderly Patient
by Kealan Connors
Dealing with the medical field can be very difficult, though if a patient is elderly, dealing with doctors and other medical needs is exceptionally challenging. Elderly patients have the most significant needs of patients that are seen by doctors and medical staff. The communication between doctors and patients can become strained because the patient feels that the doctor disregards their thoughts and opinions rather than listening to them and understanding their concerns. For an elderly patient, having a supportive advocate can be beneficial when paying medical bills, asking the doctor questions, discussing a diagnosis, and much more.
What’s a patient advocate?
A patient advocate should be someone the patient knows and trusts. It is important for the advocate to be calm, organized, assertive, and comfortable asking questions. An advocate can be a friend, family member, or caregiver.
What does the patient advocate need from the patient?
Many people can attest that the elderly population can be stubborn and not always willing to share their health problems with others. Even though a patient advocate is there to help the patient, the patient needs to be willing to openly communicate with the advocate. By doing so, the advocate will better understand how to help the patient with whatever is needed.
The following information is necessary to help the advocate:
● The patient must clearly explain what they need and their concerns
●The patient must provide details of their medical history. The patient may give access to their electronic health record so an advocate can refer to test results or notes, ask for refills on prescription medication, and even email questions or concerns to the physician. The patient must permit the doctor and other healthcare professionals to share information about the patient's situation with their advocate.
● The patient should ask the advocate to take notes during doctor appointments or record appointments (with the permission of the doctor).
● The patient should give the advocate's contact information to the patient's healthcare team.
What can an advocate do to help the patient?
To put it simply, an advocate’s job, whether they are a professional or a family member, is to help the patient weave through the ins and outs of a bureaucratic system that can be overwhelmingly complex – a system that can make some patients want to tear out their hair. Here is a list of some of the things that an advocate does daily to help the patient:
● Identify or anticipate the senior’s unmet medical, financial, or legal needs and make recommendations for how to meet them or advocate for them.
● Discuss healthcare needs with the patient's family/healthcare team.
● Discuss ideas with the patient in a simply put way, without medical jargon.
●Create a patient care plan. Coordinate necessary appointments, services, and resources to implement it. With the patient’s permission, talk to insurance companies, billers, or government agencies on their behalf.
● Handle daily paperwork that may be complex in an organized fashion to ensure that nothing gets mixed up.
● Assist the patient and their family in applying for government programs such as Medicare and/or Medicaid.
● Suggest choices to the patient and their family, such as Power of Attorney, that may help with legal and medical decision-making situations.
● Instruct the family-patient to communicate more effectively with healthcare professionals, insurance companies, government offices, and other service providers.
Two is better than one
An advocate is not just for doctors' visits; they are also there to help with all medical needs. Medical bills are scary and intimidating. An advocate is also there to stand up for the patient when they feel their needs are not adequately addressed. Most of all, the advocate is there to help the patient understand and deal with the knowledge of a new diagnosis or the realization that a treatment did not work and what happens next. When two people are on the same page about an issue, the patient doesn’t have to agonize about making all the decisions alone. This is particularly important for seniors and those who may live independently.
Kealan Connors has always wanted to help people in any way, shape, or form. From a young age, he has always been engaged within his community, from building walking/biking trails in his local parks to helping his friends. This desire led him to pursue a degree in communications from Southern Oregon University. Currently, at 22, he resides in Grants Pass, Oregon. He also holds an Associate's degree in Arts from Rogue Community College. He wants to work in a career where people are the focus, whether in health care, politics, or a nonprofit organization. His favorite hobbies are going on long walks with his yellow lab, Taffy, mountain biking, and generally, he loves to be outside. Right now, he is starting a new hobby in cooking.
February 2023 page 7