Seniors Tip: Advocating for a Family Member

Dependent on the health and ability of the person you care for, it is likely that at some point in your role as a family caregiver, you will advocate for that person. You may need to be present at appointments to ask questions, research and access services, resolve problem situations and ensure all care needs are respected and met. The following are some tips to help you be an effective advocate:

Communicate with the care recipient: As much as possible keep them involved in decisions that regard their care. Focus on their wishes as you work to advocate on their behalf.

Develop an action plan: Set realistic goals and take one step at a time toward reaching them. When tasks seem overwhelming, having a plan laying out each step makes everything seem more manageable. The worst time to figure out what is available and how to access it is during a crisis.

Prepare questions in advance: Health care professionals often have limited time to spend with you. Write down your questions in advance so you don’t forget them if you become stressed or upset. Rehearse what you want to say. Decide what information is most important and ask those questions first. Be concise and specific about the information you need.

Keep a written record: Write down answers you receive to questions. You may need to refer to this information in the future. Also, keep a log of contacts, phone numbers, names, dates and information acquired all in one place, so you can easily retrieve them when needed. In addition, keep a written record of any pertinent details related to your family member’s health condition and behaviour.

Remain calm: Believe that the information you seek and what you have to say is important and that you and your family member have a right to the answers. Anger or emotional shutdown will only get in the way of the communication.

Communicate clearly and directly: Prepare in advance for any meetings so you can be clear and concise. Ask for what you want and express your feelings. Avoid rambling and don’t expect the other person to guess what it is you are trying to say.

Be persistent and follow-up: Finding the answers you need may take time, effort and several telephone calls or emails. Don’t give up. Persistence produces results.

Keep in mind that even though you are focused only on your family member, the healthcare professionals have many patients.

Find the right person: Determine who the key contact is so you don’t waste time struggling to find answers where they are not available.

Find an appropriate time: Good timing is essential and can make the difference between managing the problem and making it worse. Wait until you are less anxious, angry or upset before trying to deal with a situation. Arrange to meet and talk at a time when both parties can focus on problem solving.

Article By Family Caregiver Network Society, Reprinted with Permission from Senior Living Magazine,

Matt Del Vecchio is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging (CPCA).  He is the founder and president of Lianas - a company specializing in retirement residence search and senior transition support.

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