A senior couple talking to a doctor
A senior couple talking to a doctor
A senior couple talking to a doctor

The Power of a Health Care Advocate

You hear a lot about how to prepare for a doctor’s visit: Make a list of medications you’re taking. Write down your questions. Complete any paperwork ahead of time, if you can. Here’s one more thing to consider: bringing a health advocate with you.

As people age, their health concerns may become more complex. Having two people hear the discussion and making sure the patient understands is much better than just one set of ears, since it can be difficult for the patient to remember all the details.

What You Need to Know

  • A health advocate can be a spouse, relative, friend, or caregiver whom you trust.
  • Although all patients can benefit from designating an advocate, only about 70% do.
  • Older adults are especially likely to benefit from having another person with them during medical visits.

Choosing Your Personal Health Advocate

A good health advocate is someone who knows you well and is calm, organized, assertive, and comfortable asking questions. The most important thing is choosing someone you respect and can trust to be both discreet and caring.

Working with a Health Care Advocate

Working with a health care advocate empowers you to:

  • Clearly explain the kind of help you need and your concerns. 
  • Provide details of your medical history. You may even want to give your advocate access to your electronic health record so he or she can refer to test results or notes, ask for refills on prescription medication, and even email questions or concerns to the physician. Just make sure you provide permission for the doctor and other health care professionals to share information about you with your advocate. 
  • Ask the advocate to take notes or even record conversations with health care professionals. (Ask for your doctor’s permission before recording.) 
  • Give your advocate’s contact information to your health care team, and give your advocate your health care team’s contact information. 

While your personal health advocate can help if you’re hospitalized, many hospitals also provide patient advocates to assist you. Geriatric care managers, including registered nurses and social workers, often serve as health care advocates. It is also an option to hire a health care advocate. As with anyone you hire to help with your personal affairs, it is important to ensure they are qualified in your area.

Your Advocate as Educator

An advocate is not just for doctor visits or hospital stays. A patient can discuss new health issues with the advocate. For instance, an advocate can offer perspective on whether or not a treatment is working. When there are two people on the same page of an issue, the patient doesn’t have to agonize about making all the decisions alone. This is particularly important for seniors and those who may live alone.

An advocate can also help doctors educate you about your condition so you can manage it better. Your advocate’s communication with your doctor can help deal with issues such as hypertension fall risk. 

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