The Importance of Having a Patient Advocate

Nurse Making Notes During Home Visit With Senior Couple

When your health is compromised, even the smallest tasks and decisions can zap your energy and leave you feeling lost. That’s why it’s so important to have someone at your side – and on your side – to navigate the red tape of the healthcare system and look out for your best interests. Relying on an advocate during this already stressful time will ensure that your wishes are being honored and will help promote accountability among those providing care.

An advocate may be your spouse, child, another member of your family, or a close friend; or, you may choose to employ a professional advocate, such as a Patient Representative via your hospital, a social worker, nurse, or chaplain. The key to finding your ideal advocate is making sure you choose someone you can trust and with whom you can effectively communicate, and someone who can in turn effectively communicate with others on your behalf.

The following information is from the National Patient Safety Foundation. (Learn more about NPSF at their website.) They highlight several factors to consider when choosing an advocate:

  • Select a person you can communicate with and that you can trust. It’s important to pick someone who is assertive and who has good communication skills. Make sure that the person you select is willing and able to be the type of advocate that you need.
  • Let your physician and those caring for you know who your advocate is and how you want them involved in your care.
  • Decide what you want help with and what you want to handle on your own. For example, you may want help with: clarifying your options for hospitals, doctors, diagnostic tests and procedures or treatment choices; getting information or asking specific questions; writing down information that you receive from your caregivers, as well as any questions that you may have; and assuring that your wishes are carried out when you may not be able to do that by yourself.
  • Arrange for your designated advocate to be the spokesperson for the rest of your family and make sure your other family members know this. This will provide a consistent communication link for your caregivers and can help to minimize confusion and misunderstandings within your family.

 

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