Why Seniors Need You To Be Their Health Advocate

what is a health advocate

Seniors need someone on their side

Visiting the doctor can be an exhausting blur for some older adults. Many aren’t able to confidently speak for themselves or fight for what they need.

Seniors needing help from a health advocate usually include those who’ve had a stroke, have Alzheimer’s or dementia, or are very ill or frail.

These older adults need a trusted relative, spouse, friend, or care manager to make sure they get the best care that supports their quality of life goals.

As their health advocate, that person does things like talk with doctors, take clear notes, research conditions, find specialists, and help manage health insurance and medical bills.


What is a health advocate?

A health advocate (or patient advocate) is someone who helps a patient navigate the medical system.

This can cover a variety of things, including:

  • Helping medical professionals understand the complete health situation
  • Going to appointments, speaking with the doctor, and taking notes
  • Making sure all medications and supplements are reviewed on a regular basis
  • Working with doctors to find a solution when medication side effects are a problem
  • Watching out for medication errors in the hospital
  • Finding doctors and specialists
  • Dealing with medical billing errors or insurance issues

If you’ve been caring for an older adult, this probably sounds familiar to you. Most likely, your senior has multiple health conditions and sees a variety of doctors or specialists.

Each doctor doesn’t have an overall picture of their health, so it’s up to you to help the medical professionals understand the full situation so your older adult can get the right treatments.


Why seniors need a health advocate

Many seniors are used to a time when the doctor’s word was final and patients didn’t question anything. That was a time when a patient usually had just one doctor and had been seeing them for decades. Things have changed a lot since then.

Today, doctors see far too many patients to be able to spend enough time with each one and think deeply about how to best treat their health conditions. The long-standing relationships are gone and seniors now see many specialists, none of whom communicate with each other. Mistakes happen far too often.

Yes, the doctor is still the medical expert. But older adults and their caregivers are experts in knowing their full history, how they’re feeling now, how medication usually affects them, and if new concerns have come up.

These are things that doctors, in a 20 minute visit, would never be able to know. But understanding these factors is critical for successful medical treatment. A health advocate speaks up to share information and ask important questions if their senior isn’t able to.


How seniors benefit from a health advocate

Having coordinated treatments that improve health problems without causing problems or side effects improves quality of life and overall health.

A health advocate helps seniors by:

  • Keeping track of new symptoms, problems, or changes to discuss with the doctor
  • Taking plenty of time to explain to the senior their health conditions, treatments, and why it’s important to follow the doctor’s instructions
  • Finding the right doctors, specialists, or hospitals
  • Taking notes during appointments, bringing up important questions for the doctor, and making sure critical details aren’t overlooked
  • Dealing with health insurance – coverage questions, billing errors, payment, etc.


Bottom line

Seniors who don’t like questioning doctors or aren’t able to manage their own healthcare would benefit from a health advocate.

Family caregivers usually take on this responsibility because they’re trusted, are the most familiar with their older adult’s health conditions, and see them often enough to notice changes or problems.


Next Step  Get 7 tips to help you advocate for your older adult at their next doctor’s visit


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: ProNurse Homecare & Infusion

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