How to be an Advocate for Your Aging Parent

What does it mean to be an advocate?

Being an advocate means speaking up on someone else’s behalf, being the voice when someone else cannot be. Advocating for an aging parent means being ready to speak up for them at a time when they are most vulnerable, ensuring their quality of life.

What does that mean? It means understanding and respecting their wishes regarding care and quality of life, especially at the end of a lifetime. It means being prepared to step in to manage legal and financial matters as they arise. When addressing health care needs, it means making sure they get the care and services they need.

How to become an effective advocate

Being willing to be an advocate is always the first step, however, there are skills and specific ways that determine how effective your advocacy is. Paying attention to what is happening with your loved one, physically, mentally, and emotionally is important. Communicating frequently, effectively, and often with medical staff, and other personnel involved in care will get the best results.

Designate one point of contact

Having one person to communicate with will make it easier for healthcare providers and your family. The designated person of contact should be added to medical forms and have a legal “Medical Power of Attorney,” allowing them (or you) to make any decisions regarding the treatment of your parent. Being able to make quick, informed decisions enhances the quality of care for your loved one.

Do your research

In the middle of challenges brought on by the needs of an aging parent, we can often feel alone. There is support available if you look for it. Doing your research can help you find support groups, medical professionals, elder health services, and aging care managers who can help you and your loved one create a game plan for care. Researching medical conditions such as memory loss or other illnesses will help you understand what your loved one is going through now and what the prognosis might be.

Pay close attention and stay involved

As our parents age, it’s important to pay attention to their daily lives and notice when things begin to slip. Are they having trouble with meals, managing housework or understanding bills? Are they letting go of things that once brought joy, such as gardening or other crafts? Is understanding new technology getting in the way of their well-being? As this begins to happen, family members will have to step in to help manage and care for their loved one. This can take time and careful observation. Your parent may be struggling but not want to burden you or give up their independence.

Attend appointments and procedures

Many elderly patients become confused and frustrated when working with medical professionals. Medical jargon and the rapid pace of today’s health care visits may be overwhelming for your loved one. Sit down together before the appointment and create a list of questions Encourage or remind them of things that are important for the doctor to know such as a fall, weight loss, difficulty sleeping or hearing difficulties. Your presence at the appointment can be as an intermediary or translator, helping to ensure the best care through good communication.

Stay organized and keep lists

Keeping track of your aging parents’ medications, medical procedures, legal documents and other necessary paperwork, on top of your own can be daunting. Try using a binder or file bin specifically for your parent. Having everything well organized and labeled will make it easier for you, other family members who need to be communicated with. It will enable you to have information close at hand for medical personnel and others.

Ask specific questions

Remember that an advocate has to be the voice for their aging parent. When you accompany your loved one to their doctor’s appointments or other business appointments, consider making a list of questions that you and your aging parent want to ask. This enables the doctor to give you more thorough attention and expertise. It enables you all to create a plan for care, understanding how medications and therapies will work, any risks involved or other things to watch out for. Developing a plan of care together will help your loved one get the best possible care.

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