Being a Healthcare Advocate: 9 Important Tips

Helpful-tips-300x199This is the second installment in our three-part series on becoming your parent’s healthcare advocate. In the first part, Being Your Parent’s Healthcare Advocate: How to Get Started, we learned how to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition. In part two, we tackle how to manage documentation and record keeping. In part 3, we explore how to Best Engage with Healthcare Professionals.

As you embark on your journey as a healthcare advocate for a loved one, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got as much information at your fingertips as possible.

Emergency can strike at any time, and you want to be prepared; but even simple routine care can require a high level of organization and knowledge. It’s best if you give yourself time (by starting early) to pull all the information together. Don’t wait until something happens.

Here’s a starter list of preparations for a new healthcare advocate:

    • Collect all the contact details (names, emails, telephone numbers, office addresses, etc.) for any primary care and specialist physicians. You may also want to get information about hospital and health network affiliations, which insurance they accept, and any outside billing partners they may employ.
    • Request copies of your parent’s medical records. These documents will include information about general health, diagnoses, medications, visit notes, test results, and other key information about your parent’s medical history.
    • Compile a list of all the medications your parent takes, including dosage and any other relevant details.
    • Keep a health journal for your parent — a notebook or computer file in which you record a running list of concerns (your parent’s and your own), health-related events, and so forth. This will be a valuable resource at doctor’s visits.
    • Make sure that your parent’s medical file is updated with your contact information both as a reference and in case of emergency. You may also want to provide a list of any additional family members who can be permitted access to medical records and/or the physician. Remember, however, that while your parent may grant additional people access, for day-to-day matters, you will want to establish one person as the primary contact.
    • Provide your parent’s primary physician with signed copies of your parent’s healthcare proxy or durable medical power of attorney (POA) for healthcare. A durable POA provides additional legal leverage, and as of October 2016, updated POA laws in Connecticut provide even greater protections. (In fact, even if your parent currently has a POA in place, you may want to update that document in order to take advantage of the new protections, which only apply to new POAs, not ones that existed prior to October 2016.)
    • Introduce yourself to the pharmacist who will be filling your parent’s prescriptions. Pharmacists can be a valuable resource for helping you sort out any potential drug interactions and so forth.
    • Know your hospitals. In case of needing special testing, treatment, or support for a healthcare emergency, the facility can make a big difference in both experience and outcome. While you can’t always choose where your parent goes, it’s smart to know ahead of time about any personal preferences, specialized care options, insurance considerations, and so forth.
    • Research your parent’s healthcare insurance and Medicare/Medicaid benefits so that you understand exactly what is covered (and what is not), and also so that you’re better equipped to be able to spot anomalies on statements and bills.

By doing the up-front work of organizing and reviewing all the relevant information and documentation, you will feel much more prepared for whatever comes your way. Just taking the time to familiarize yourself with everything can go a long way toward reducing stress and anxiety – for both you and your parent – as you get used to your new role.

For more in this series, read:

How to be Your Parent’s Healthcare Advocate: Getting Started

How to Best Engage with Healthcare Professionals



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