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Being a Health Care Advocate for an Ill Family Member

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All too often, those with serious diagnoses are bombarded with information about their treatment and suggestions regarding life-saving care. But retaining the sheer amount of information is difficult—especially when grappling with a serious illness. That is where a healthcare advocate comes in.

A patient’s advocate is often a family member or close friend who stands up for a loved one’s rights in a medical setting. A health advocate accompanies the patient, takes notes, and works as part of the patient’s care team to ensure that they receive the best and most compassionate care.

Tips on ensuring your loved one receives the best care

Essentially, the best health advocates begin as another set of eyes and ears in the room with doctors, and emerge as a pivotal and integral role of the managed care process.

Being a proponent of your loved one’s medical treatment means:

  • Accompanying your loved one to doctor’s appointments. This includes specialist appointments, tests, and procedures.
  • Obtaining information and explanations from the patient’s health care team.
  • Providing information to the patient’s doctors and care team about current issues or events, medical history, or family medical history.
  • Researching treatment according to the patient’s wishes and diagnosis. This could include alternative and holistic medicines as well as Western medicinal treatments in clinical settings. This also might involve mental health care.
  • Arranging or providing transportation.
  • Assisting with the patient’s medication regimen, and making sure the care team is aware when there are changes.
  • Ask the right questions. “What happens if…” is a great starting point, and should be asked about a number of scenarios.
  • Standing up for the patient if you believe a doctor or other professional is making an error.

Patient advocates are vigilant about observing and working with the care team. It’s important to make sure medical professionals do little things, such as wash their hands, as well as large scale things, including ensuring the patient sees the doctor at least once per day when hospitalized. Understanding and abiding by discharge instructions can be equally as important as inpatient advocacy.

Having an advanced health care directive in Washington D.C. or Maryland

From a legal standpoint, the most effective way to take charge of your loved one’s health is to become their official health care agent. If your family member creates an advance directive, he or she can name a person to make health care decisions in case the patient is incapacitated. An advance directive also provides instructions regarding end-of-life care and whether or not to sustain a person’s life when permanently incapacitated.

Whatever your role in your loved one’s life, a patient advocate must be trustworthy, committed, and compassionate. You cannot give up when something frustrates the patient or if a certain treatment course isn’t working. And if a healthcare professional makes an error, you need to be willing to take action to rectify the situation.

Skilled medical malpractice attorneys in Baltimore and Washington D.C. fighting for you

If you or a loved one has questions about patient advocacy and its legal boundaries, speak with an attorney from Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. We can also offer legal representation if someone you love was harmed by medical malpractice. Contact us today at 410-234-1000 or by using our contact form to schedule a consult in either our Washington D.C. or Baltimore office.

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