Just What Does a Patient Advocate Do?

As healthcare evolves, doctor’s visits have only gotten more complicated. When was the last time you managed to finish an appointment without receiving a litany of things to remember: don’t eat this food; do eat this food; exercise more; take this medication at morning, noon, but not night: take this unpronounceable medication as needed, but this similarly spelled medicine can only be administered once per day. To make matters worse, you’re already under a lot of stress due to the health concern that brought you there today. At a certain point it becomes impossible to remember everything you are supposed to do to take care of your own health.

But what if you didn’t have to? What if you had someone who was there with you every step of the way to take notes, or bring up concerns you may have forgotten or just don’t feel comfortable voicing on your own? What if you had a patient advocate?

A patient advocate can be anyone you can trust. You can ask a family member or loved one to be your advocate or you can hire a professional patient advocate to stand by your side. Either way, your patient advocate will be with you for every step of treatment, making sure that you get the best care available. With a patient advocate by your side, you no longer need to divide your attention between your recovery and your care.

Your patient advocate will accompany you to all your appointments and take notes on what the doctor says. They’ll help you understand just what your doctor is talking about, and what you need to do to recover. Additionally, your patient advocate will speak up about any concerns you may have. Your patient advocate is your best ally and confidant in the doctor’s office.

A patient advocate can do all of this and more: help you select the best treatment option or facility for your care; help you untangle and understand your health insurance benefits and coverage; help create a safe discharge from the hospital, help you with decisions for yourself or a loved one.

If you do not have someone in mind to be your patient advocate, or simply have more questions, contact Care Answered and we will gladly help you through the process, at every step of the way.

Healthcare Decisions are Easier with Advance Planning

A Reminder to Have ‘The Talk’ in Honor of Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16 was Healthcare Decisions Day – a great reminder to have “the talk” with your loved ones.

Better late than never is an adage that applies to many situations – but it’s a bad policy when it comes to discussing your healthcare decisions. In fact, the best time to have those conversations is long before they are faced with making difficult decisions. The questions surrounding these discussions are important: How aggressively do you want to be treated if your medical condition is considered terminal and you lose the ability to make your own treatment decisions? Who should be responsible for making those decisions on your behalf?

The first step would be to select your health care proxy.

What is a Healthcare Proxy?

The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint someone you trust — for example, a family member or close friend – to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make decisions yourself. By appointing a health care agent, you can make sure that health care providers follow your wishes. Learn more here.

How do you talk about healthcare decisions?

Once you have selected your proxy, be sure to inform that person about his or her role, and let him or her know about your wishes should an illness or injury leave you unable to make your own healthcare decisions.

Talk about what you value and be as specific as you can. You might say:

“I don’t want to ever be sustained by machines,” or “I have to be able to live independently,” or “There are new health findings every day. I would like to be kept alive until they find a cure.”

Some other conversational prompts include:

“My faith is important to me and I don’t want to have….”

“I’m allergic to …. Please make sure that I don’t receive that medicine”

Why is this so important?

The discussion with your healthcare proxy can and should be ongoing. You cannot imagine every possible scenario but if the person you select as your healthcare proxy understands your values and knows the types of life-sustaining treatments that you would want, as well as those interventions that you would not want, your proxy will feel confident that they are following your wishes rather than having to decide your fate on their own.

This is not a contest of who loves you the most; rather, it’s about who will be able to carry out your wishes. It is a tremendous burden to expect your loved ones to make these decisions for you if you have not expressly told them your wishes. Help them by starting the conversation now, while you are healthy and able to share your feelings.