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The Help Of An Advocate To A Senior Can Be Invaluable.

For many families who use the services, and patients that contract the services themselves, the help is invaluable. Although the patients seeking these services cover a broad range of patients, the most common clients of patient advocates are Seniors, the elderly parents of adult children that either they don’t have time to be on a 24/7/365 basis on call, or adult children that live in other side of town, other cities or other countries and want to feel that their parents or grandparents are safe and looked after. Families who want to receive email reports of their parents at every visit, as well as phone messages, video shots, or being able to video conference with them on their visits. This is also invaluable for these elderly parents that look forward to having their advocate on their visit phone their kids or grandkids to video phone and talk with them.

Families contract the services of an advocate to check on their parents on a weekly or biweekly basis because they do not require frequent services or for their own peace of mind. An open communication account for their parents to contact the assigned advocate anytime they need them, either for companionship, or to ask difficult questions that they do not want to ask their adult children such as inheritance questions, or to feel more independent to ask the advocate to help resolve a problem that they have and do not want to inconvenience their adult children.

There is also a growing number of language or culture specific advocates for elderly seniors and patients that were brought to Canada and the United States by their kids, but do not speak the local language. This can be overwhelming in a new world and some may need a special advocate that can communicate with them

As a result, a role has emerged for personal advocates, particularly as the incoming wave of seniors from the baby-boomer generation has highlighted the challenges of getting appropriate and timely care. the system has become so much more complex, and technology can be overwhelming to some Seniors.  Many patients must visit multiple specialists that often don’t communicate effectively with one another, and do not have the time to explain several times to the Patient their diagnostics, leaving it up to the patient to provide an accurate medical history and documents from one medical doctor to the next, and ask the right questions. For seniors with multiple chronic conditions or cognitive impairments, this can be extremely challenging, anxious, scared, overwhelmed with the world resulting in shortening their life.

In fact, a big part of the patient advocate role is to accompany the patient and walk with them or drive them from one doctor to the lab to the next doctor keeping a file of it all. Also, organizing what medicine to take at what hour, and write a summary to their family via email, and if required follow through four times a day via text or phone reminding them that they need to take their medicine. Given the pressure of seeing increasing numbers of patients, many physicians simply do not have enough time to spend an hour with a patient to ensure that everything has been communicated as clearly as possible. This is particularly problematic as research has shown patients can recall correctly a fraction of what they are told by their physicians, with treatment information often being the most poorly recalled.  For that reason, having an advocate who is familiar with the patient sit in on appointments can be extremely beneficial to the patient.

For some patients, there are concerns that bringing a patient advocate to appointments could make their physician feel as though they don’t trust them or that the advocate might challenge the physician’s decisions. However, most advocates reported that although this may be an issue at the first appointment, once a relationship is established and the physician understands their role in helping to implement the treatment recommendations, any uneasiness quickly dissipates.

This type of assistance is a major component of the primary benefit of hiring a patient advocate – facilitating continuity of care.  With the number of different players involved in their care, it’s nice to have one person who is always there with them, no matter which provider they’re seeing.

Given the intensive follow-up intrinsic to this type of role, some advocates feel that their services are something that will always fall outside the public system. “In Canada, we have fantastic health care providers and in a lot of ways a great public system, [but] I think logistically it would be impossible to do, and it would put the cost considerably higher,”. “A doctor will do a great job of telling them what they need to do when the client comes to visit, but a family doctor isn’t set up to call dozens of clients every day to see how things are going,” he says.

Nevertheless, advocates suggested that although they represent a private option outside the government funded health care system, their services benefit the public system. This is because patients with uncoordinated care tend to consume a disproportionate amount of health care resources, including hospital admissions.

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