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How to Be a Health Care Advocate for a Family Member

When a family member becomes ill, you may need to coordinate care, speak with doctors and ask the tough questions. Are you up to the task? Here are the basics for being a health care advocate for a family member.

Personality Traits of a Competent Advocate

In a perfect world, a good advocate would have the following characteristics:

  1. Excellent Communication Skills - The most important quality to be a successful advocate is the ability to communicate effectively. As you advocate for your family member, you will be expected to listen and explain important information with the patient, doctors, insurance companies, third party medical suppliers, and other family members. Because health issues are often complicated and plagued with administrative red tape, your patience will be tested.
  2. Empathy - Empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. It requires you to"walk a mile in someone else’s shoes." Being able to empathize with someone who’s sick will give you the strength to advocate when you would otherwise want to quit.
  3. Organization - Documentation is essential for making sure the a patient gets the best health care possible. A health care advocate must keep a record of everything and must record what communication has occurred, when it occurred, and with whom it occurred. That takes organization.
  4. The Ability to Solve Problems - Those who are successful are successful because they’re able to solve problems. Inadequate health care is a problem. It’s up to you to solve it. It will require persistence, patience, assertiveness, friendliness, and knowing when to use which characteristic.
  5. Persuasiveness - The word "advocate" has its roots in the Latin word for "lawyer." A lawyer’s job is to persuade and defend. Your job as health care advocate is to persuade others to provide the best health care possible and do what’s in the best interest of the patient.

Health Care Advocate Options

You’ve looked at the responsibilities of being a health care advocate and may not think you’re up to the task. What can you do? The following resources may be helpful.

  1. Use a patient focused organization to advocate for you. As health care complexities increase, the need for experienced individuals to navigate these complexities increases. As you might imagine, as the need arises, so do organizations. These organizations can be private or not-for-profit. They do charge a fee.
  2. Hire an individual health care advocate. The need for health care advocacy stems from the difficulty of dealing with different organizations. Many, therefore, opt for hiring an individual to advocate. Most individual health care advocates are entrepreneurs and may have several individuals working for them.
  3. Enlist a friend or relative. Finding a friend or relative who complements your skill set may provide the boon you need to advocate successfully. You don’t have to do it alone.