Since you care guide: Becoming an effective advocate for care available free from THE METLIFE MATURE MARKET INSTITUTE
Westport, CT. – The MetLife Mature Market Institute® has advice for caregivers about acting on behalf of a loved one with regard to health care matters. The recently updated guide, Becoming an Effective Advocate for Care, from the Institute’s series of Since You Care guides, is available free to the public.
The 20-page booklet has practical advice for those who represent a loved one and a list of print and online resources with physicians and other health care professionals, insurance companies, hospitals, nursing homes and home health care agencies.
“With the many advances in medical care, people with significant health problems and disabilities can extend their lives for many more years. Family members will therefore be called upon more and more to advocate for their loved ones – a task that can be stressful and challenging for almost everyone,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “This publication will be useful in answering questions and providing information on meaningful steps families can take to effectively communicate their loved one’s needs and make sure they receive appropriate medical attention and quality care.”
The guide includes advice for: talking with physicians and insurance company personnel, working with hospital staff and hospital discharge planners, advocating when a family member is dealing with a terminal illness or receiving care at home, in a nursing home or assisted living facility. It also contains two record-keeping tools on which to enter a care recipient’s health care, insurance and personal information. One tool lists information that is pertinent to those providing direct care services, e.g. home health aides. The other has data to be shared with health care providers, such as emergency personnel, hospitals and new doctors a care recipient may be seeing.
“Our aim is to deliver a message of: respect, comfort, safety and dignity,” said Dr. Timmermann. “If caregivers keep those words in mind and add patience and persistence, they’ll be a valuable advocate for their loved one. It’s important to keep in mind that individuals generally receive better care when their families are involved in a positive way.”
The guide cautions family members to have a signed authorization to allow health care providers to share medical information. Above all, it counsels readers to communicate with the person being cared for to best assess that individual’s wishes, and to do so before the person becomes ill, if possible.
Specific tips are:
1. Determine what information you need. The kinds of information a caregiver may need include, among other things, medical, legal, financial and insurance issues, community resources, housing options, and care choices either at home or in a facility.
2. Learn the language and definitions of care. Health care facilities, insurance companies, pharmacists, health services personnel and physicians use specific language. To improve your ability to find answers to your questions, you will need to speak in a way that the providers will hear.
3. Learn what questions to ask and be prepared. Decide what information is most important to you and ask those questions first. Write down your questions prior to any conversation. Write down the responses you receive to your questions as well.
4. Learn how to ask. Be concise. Phrase your questions clearly so you get the information you want. First state what you need to know and then why you need to know it.
5. Be persistent and follow up. Multiple phone calls may be required to find the information you want. Sending a letter or an email is another method to obtain what you need. Do not give up, as repeated attempts do produce results.
6. Write things down. Do not assume you will remember all you have been told. Keep a log of contacts, phone numbers, names, dates, and information obtained because details will be important.
7. Determine your strengths as a caregiver and those of your family member. What things can you realistically do and what activities can the person you are helping perform? After you decide what each of you can do, determine what level of help you need from others.
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