Learn to Self Advocate: How to be a Partner in your Own Health

shschesterfieldcountyva 28 Aug 2020

As we age, so many things weigh on our minds. Concerns lie with family, friends, church, volunteering, and more. Right now, we have the added worry of a pandemic and political unrest in an election year. With all these issues to consider, it’s important not to neglect your own health. To that end, seniors must remember the importance of being able to self advocate. You want to be an active partner in your own health instead of taking a passive, observational role.

Learning to Self Advocate

So how do you learn to advocate for yourself, especially if you tend to have a more timid personality? Fortunately, you can find all kinds of resources on the internet… where else? The Joint Commission has a “Speak Up” campaign aimed at helping people learn to do just that. You can watch a video or print out a handy guide with tips to help you take a more active role in your health care.

One of the most important things you can do is be well prepared for each appointment. This takes a little planning ahead. Before you visit a doctor, make a list of questions you have so you are less likely to forget something. You should also note any new symptoms, changes from other providers, and anything else that your doctor may need to hear.

Learn to self advocate - infographic with tips on preparing for an appointment

Advocate for Yourself in Advance

While it’s not everyone’s favorite topic, part of advocating for yourself and partnering in your own care includes making sure your loved ones know your wishes in advance. What should happen once you reach the point where you can no longer speak for yourself? Where would you like to live when you need a higher level of care? Most seniors have opinions about these topics, but people can’t read your mind. If you don’t make your wishes absolutely clear, your family or loved ones will have to guess later on. No matter how well you think they know you, never assume they are completely familiar with your plan. The best thing you can do is write it down and let your family know where they can find it.

You may also want to talk to a lawyer about an advance directive or living will. The last thing you want to do is leave your family with an agonizing decision when you could have left them with a detailed plan to follow. Even if you don’t have close family, any friends who live with you or are involved in your life should know your desires.

Knowing When to Step In

If you have an aging family member or friend, you may wonder when you should step in to help your loved one self advocate. Some questions you can use to evaluate the situation include the following:

  • Does your loved one become easily overwhelmed when discussing his or her health?
  • Does he or she clearly understand all the available options?
  • Have you noticed any issues with memory or confusion with your loved one?
  • What physical obstacles hinder communication? Inability to see or hear well can make it difficult to understand everything.

These issues can overwhelm both seniors and families alike, but you don’t have to feel alone! Organizations like ours can help find the answers to any questions you may have. We hope you’ll contact us if you need assistance!

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