As you age, someone is needed to make sure your medical and care needs are met. A senior care advocate to the rescue. Care advocates for seniors can be professionals or a family member that has your best interest at heart. Free services are also available to find the best person to represent your personal affairs.
Family Members as Senior Advocates
It is not unusual for someone in the family to act as an advocate for an older family member. Often a parent, grandparent or other older loved one becomes too ill to manage things on his own. When a family member steps in and takes over the care of the senior, he is acting as the care advocate for his loved one.
The responsibility of acting as the care advocate for a senior family member is far greater than simply taking him to a doctor's appointment or picking up a filled prescription from the pharmacy. The role of the care advocate entails making sure that everything regarding the senior's medical care is taken care of correctly. Some of the responsibilities typically include:
- Everything regarding Medicare, Medicaid and supplemental secondary insurance coverage, limitations and benefits
- Visits to doctors, tests and procedures
- Making sure prescriptions are taken correctly
- Making sure that all information is correct if a hospital visit occurs
- Making sure that an Advanced Health Care Directive, sometimes called a Power of Attorney, and a Living Will, is in place
For the family member that takes on the responsibility of acting as the loved one's care advocate, the job can be exhausting, especially if he is caught in the sandwich generation. The term sandwich generation refers to people who find themselves in the middle of working, having children of their own at home or in college and caring for an aging ill parent or relative all at the same time. If the responsibility of caregiver or advocate becomes overwhelming, sharing the responsibilities with another family member or engaging the services of a professional care advocate for seniors is often the best solution for everyone. It is also generally the best solution when close family members do not live near the senior who needs assistance.
Professional Senior Care Advocates
Many companies provide advocacy for senior care. The services they offer differ based on the specific company, and costs vary based on the individual company starting with free services from a select few organizations.
The services provided by a professional senior care advocacy company may include:
- Assistance with medical care and concerns
- A complete assessment with care recommendations (usually completed in the senior's home)
- The completion of a plan of care
- Assistance finding appropriate housing and help with the transition to the new living environment such as an assisted living facility or Alzheimer's care facility
- Reviewing all bills from medical professionals, hospitals and insurance companies for accuracy
- Identifying needed community services such as Meals on Wheels, adult daycare or wheelchair transportation services, and assisting the senior in securing them
- Providing information when needed
- If the senior is placed in a care facility, advocates may continue to act as a liaison for families that live out of the area by keeping them informed as they continue to monitor the senior's care and handle the coordination of additional services that may become necessary
- Oversee any services needed such as home care, private duty nursing or hospice
- If the senior remains living at home, the advocate makes home visits to make sure the senior is safe and well
Free Senior Advocacy Services
Senior Advocacy Services is a good example of an advocacy program that provides many free services to seniors in the six counties surrounding Santa Rosa, California. The organization provides:
- A free long-term care ombudsman program to ensure that the quality of life in the nursing homes located in the counties is up to, or beyond, the required standards
- Free health insurance counseling and advocacy program to help seniors and their families understand their rights and benefits under Medicare, HMOs and supplemental health insurance
- A free residential care counseling program providing information and support to seniors and their families regarding moving into a facility for assisted living, memory care facility or skilled nursing
To find advocacy resources in your area providing free support, contact your state's Office of Aging.
For information on becoming an advocate for your parents or another loved one, view Becoming Your Parent's Advocate from the National Pain Foundation.
Other advocacy resources include:
Senior care advocates support the needs of senior citizens, providing them with the information and assistance they need in order to continue living the highest quality of life possible with dignity and respect. As healthcare becomes more and more complex and seniors live longer and longer, senior advocates, whether related to the elderly person or hired from a professional agency, become critical members of the senior's support network.