Vail Visiting Angels column: Advocating and saving lives
Editor’s note: Find links to these resources at http://www.vail daily.com.
Managing people’s care and advocating for them is what I do for a living, and I love my job.
One of the things I have learned throughout the years from managing Visiting Angels is that the most important and life-changing service we provide is advocating. Advocating for someone who cannot or has difficulty using their voice to get the medical attention and services they need is incredibly rewarding.
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 some or all of the care for an elder loved one. Therefore, it is important that we educate ourselves with best practices information, along with key legal and medical documents that will aid us in our advocacy.
Like never before, we need a college course to be created called, “Advocating for our loved ones 101.” I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being prepared when the need arises to advocate for a loved one. The time spent preparing will make dramatic differences in your loved one’s well-being.
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’s a good idea to make sure that:
• The person you are assisting is 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.
Regardless of whom you are assisting, 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 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.
Our Visiting Angels office fields many calls from people of all ages looking for not only help within the home but also, for help finding help. Please feel free to reach out to us, we are always happy to be a free resource.
The following organization can be quite helpful in assisting with advocacy and education:
• Eagle County Healthy Aging: Carly Rietmann 970-328-8896. If you need help outside of our community, then contact the local Public Health Department.
• Alpine Area Agency on Aging: Locally, Erin Fisher at 970-468-0295, ext. 107. Fisher is a great resource within many of our mountain communities. In other areas, go to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website
• Eagle Valley Senior Life: Wendy Miller at 970-977-0188.
• The Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living.
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 makes a difference — it truly matters.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.