According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, advocacy is:
the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal: the act or process of advocating something
What does advocacy really mean in daily life? And why would someone need the services of a paid advocate?
Most adults advocate for themselves and their loved ones without really being aware they are doing it. Yet, when advocacy is lacking, you are risking undesirable outcomes for yourself or for your loved one.
Older family members traditionally depend on loved ones to stand in as their advocates as they get older. In contemporary American society, families find it difficult to participate in their older loved ones’ lives. Adult children move away. Some seniors don’t have adult children by choice or by situation. Oftentimes, parents discourage their adult children from helping; they don’t want to be a burden to them.
Everyone needs an advocate, though. An older loved one would benefit from an advocate if the person:
- Lives far from adult children.
- Is the primary caregiver to another person and needs a support system for that person should the caregiver become unavailable or incapacitated
- Wants a neutral third party for sensitive or difficult issues with loved ones
- Feels the system in which they are operating is not responsive to their needs
- Is unsure of his or her options
What is an Advocate?
An advocate is someone to stand with you, support your choices, and makes sure your choices are carried out. Additionally, he or she can stand in your place when you are not able to, although this needs official legal authority to do so.
Advocates are helpful in many situations:
- Doctor’s offices
- Medical emergencies
- Navigating the healthcare system
- Helping out with every day matters
- Overseeing services in care facilities
Finding an Advocate
There are two kinds of advocate. One is named in legal documents such as durable power of attorney or health care power of attorney. This kind of advocate can make decisions for you that will be respected by legal entities, and legal documentation is needed for this role.
The other is a person who accompanies you in situations when decisions are needed. These advocates are needed much more frequently in the course of daily living.
Legal advocates are often family members. When the legal representative does not also actively participate in your life, you may need a separate advocate, and the role can be filled by:
- A family friend or other loved one
- A professional such as a care manager, social worker, or professional advocate.
Advocacy Done Right
The advocate needs to know their client well and know their client’s goals and values. Usually when addressing healthcare issues, the client must arrange HIPAA authorization. HIPAA authorization allows the advocate to access healthcare information that supports choices and decisions.
Physical proximity to the client is very important. Since situations can come up very quickly, the advocate might need to be available at a moment’s notice. Additionally, the nearby advocate participates in everyday activities, which helps them to know their client well.
If you want to work with a professional advocate, look for the following:
- Competent, professional presence
- Organized and thorough
- Knowledgeable in the environment in which he or she is advocating
- Skilled at negotiating and communicating
One More Thing
When you are helping an older loved one, you may have many reasons not to seek out an independent advocate for them. In fact, the older loved one may deny needing any help at all – neither an advocate nor any other type of help. Maybe they don’t want to be a burden, or they fear losing their independence.
If you want the best for your loved one, bringing in an advocate is a great way to support your family member. Working with an advocate does not feel like “elder care” for your loved one, whereas companion care or personal care might. Instead, you can regard the advocate a “personal assistant” for your loved one.
Your loved one may even become more independent when they have an advocate.
Also, consider the advocate as helping the family as a whole, not only the senior. You gain a neutral participant in your loved one’s life, a trusted contact, and you gain peace of mind.
We Can Help!
An advocate doesn’t have to be a family member. Get help managing the care of your elderly loved one in Overland Park, Kansas, the Kansas City region, or in Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, or Staunton, Virginia.
Contact us at Care is There Geriatric Care Management 800.434.1633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer geriatric care management, support for independent living, assisted living enhancement, Aging Life Care™ services, and peace of mind for long distance caregivers.
You might also be interested in these other articles:
- How to Be an Effective Advocate for Your Elderly Loved One
- How to Advocate at Medical Appointments for Your Elderly Loved One
- HIPAA: Giving Your Advocate Access to Health Care Information
- Care Coordination with Care is There
AGING LIFE CARE™ is a trademark of the Aging Life Care Association. Only ALCA members are authorized to use this term to identify their services. See the Team page of CareisThere.com for a list of our associates, and look for the Aging Life Care logo on the bio pages of our ACLA members.