Family caregivers must also understand their loved one’s wishes for care and quality of life. They must also be sure those wishes are respected. Further, it means helping them manage financial and legal matters, and making sure they receive appropriate services and treatments when they need them.
AARP’s recent article entitled “How to Be an Effective Advocate for Aging Parents” says if the thought of being an advocate for others seems overwhelming, take it easy. You probably already have the skills you need to be effective. You may just need to develop and apply them in new ways. AARP gives us the five most important attributes.
- Observation. Caregivers can be too busy or tired, to see small changes, but even slightest shifts in a person’s abilities, health, moods, safety needs, or wants may be a sign of a much more serious medical or mental health issue. You should also monitor the services your family member is getting. You can take notes on your observations about your loved one to track any changes over time.
- Organization. It is hard to keep track of every aspect of a caregiving plan, but as an advocate, you must manage your loved one’s caregiving team. This includes creating task lists and organizing the paperwork associated with health, legal, and financial matters. You will need to have easy access to all legal documents, like powers of attorney for finances and health care. If needed, you might take an organizing course or work with a professional organizer. There are also many caregiving apps. You should also, make digital copies of key documents, such as medication lists, medical history, powers of attorney and living wills, so you can access them from anywhere.
- Communication. This may be the most important attribute. You need communication for building relationships with other caregivers, family members, attorneys and healthcare professionals. Be prepared for meetings with lawyers, medical professionals and other providers.
- Probing. Caregivers need to gather information, so do not be shy about it. Educate yourself about your loved one’s health conditions, finances and legal affairs. Create a list of questions for conversations with doctors and other professionals.
- Tenacity. Facing a dysfunctional and frustrating health care system can be discouraging. You must be tenacious. Here are a few suggestions on how to do that:
- Set clear goals and focus on the end result you want.
- Keep company with positive and encouraging people.
- Heed the advice of experienced caregivers’ stories, so you understand the triumphs and the challenges.
- Be positive and be resilient.
Reference: AARP (Sep. 24, 2020) “How to Be an Effective Advocate for Aging Parents”