Haims: Advocating is what matters
This is the first of two columns discussing advocating. An advocate is someone who acts or intercedes on behalf of someone else.
It is not always easy to know when to advocate or when to speak up for a loved one. However, when the person you care about is unable or unwilling to speak up for themselves, it may be time to start.
An effective advocate does not take over someone’s decision-making. Rather, an effective advocate listens to and attempts to understand the needs and desires of the person they are assisting. When advocating for someone, it is good to make sure that:
- The person you are assisting is in agreement with your offer to help.
- You make every effort to include the person in the process.
- You are able to explain and convey information in a manner that is understood by the person you are helping
- You are able to convey the needs, desires, and potential health concerns of the person you are helping.
- You can effectively collaborate and share information amongst family, friends, and medical providers
As our population ages, many of us will find that ourselves, our friends and our families will be placed in a position where we are providing for some or all of the care for an elder loved one. Therefore, it is important that we educate ourselves on best practices along with key legal and medical documents that will aid us in our advocacy.
The task of caregiver can be exhausting. Whether you are assisting a spouse, child, family member or friend, you may find that sharing the responsibilities with another person or using the services of a professional care advocate may be very helpful — especially as so many of us often live in different towns and different state than our loved ones.
Regardless of whom you are assisting, whether it’s a parent, family member or friend, one of the first tasks you should initiate is learning about the importance of documents such as advance directives and powers of attorney for both legal and health matters.
A discussion about these documents should be had early on in the advocacy process. These documents provide for a clear and concise decision-making process. Not having such documents in place can lead to situations where access to medical and legal information is not being freely shared. This can be avoided by becoming proactive. Winding up with decisions being made by persons appointed by a court is far from optimal.
More often than not, health issues are the concerns that cause most people to need the assistance/advocacy of a family member or friend. As such, it is important that the person you are assisting share a list of their medical providers and all the medications they take. If you have the ability to accompany them to medical appointments, this will prove to be quite helpful. Developing a collaborative relationship amongst all those involved in the best interest of your loved one is imperative.
When advocating for an elder loved one, your job is to be the voice of that person. You need to understand their needs and desires. While there may be times that they may seem confused, they may be unable to communicate effectively, or may even be a bit combative, you should never dismiss their voice, values, and beliefs.
Assisting anybody with their finances can be complicated. It does not make a difference if you are helping a friend or family member. It does not make a difference if there are substantial funds or moderate. Money is often the root of all evil. Don’t let finances become overwhelming or derail you from helping a loved one. You can avoid much turmoil and start off on a good foot by seeking the services of another family member, a banker, or a professional money manager.
The following is taken from Next Avenue, a great resource and part of the PBS family.
Each family will need to find its own way into this discussion, but sometimes a simple statement like this can open the door: “Mom, Dad, I respect you and your wishes, but lately I’ve been hearing and reading stories about older parents — smart people! — getting into trouble with their money. You’ve worked so hard to save and prepare for a good life, and it would kill me to see anything bad happen. I want you to know I’m here to help in any way I can. And from what I’ve been reading, the sooner we start having the conversation, the better, and easier, it’ll be.”
Advocating for a loved one is honorable. While not always easy, it can be rewarding, insightful, and forge everlasting memories. Showing that you care for someone and are willing to give of yourself make a difference — it’s truly what matters.
Look for the second part of this column in next Tuesday’s paper.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.