patient advocate taking care of elder holding flowers outside

What is a Patient Advocate?

When older adults become less functionally independent, it’s hard enough as it is. As a caregiver or family member, it can be stressful to think about paying for doctor’s visits or putting them into a long-term facility.

The good news is that you don’t need to do it alone. Patient advocates do the job of helping their patients receive the best care possible at the most affordable rates. They’re a sidekick for your loved one to live the most fulfilling life possible.

While patient advocates aren’t normally medical professionals, they are highly educated and can help you understand and seek out the right advice from medical practitioners.

They are a highly valuable resource for your loved ones, as they can help improve quality of life, but they’re also great for caregivers as they lift some of the logistical burdens that come along with planning for your family member’s future.

What Do Patient Advocates Help With?

The stressors that come along with taking care of an elderly loved one are exponential, and many of them aren’t even related to their well-being directly. Many stressors come from the immense amount of paperwork, bills, and doctor’s visits that become necessary.

Patient advocates can help you through it all.

Understanding Medical Bills

Even with insurance, doctor’s visits can become costly, and making sense of the numbers on your loved one’s bill can be inundating and confusing. Most of us don’t know how to recognize problems to ensure that no errors are made.

Patient advocates are well equipped to read over bills and statements to ensure that everything looks good. This can help you to avoid paying more than you need to. Plus, they can help you stay on top of payments to ensure that you don’t get stuck paying late fees or interest.

Patient advocates can also work with your insurance company to make sure that you’re getting the best rates possible. They might be able to get better deals on some of your loved one’s bills.

Getting the Most Out of Doctor’s Visits

Seniors need to take a trip to the doctor more often than most people. Limitations in verbal skills and lapses in memory can make it difficult for a doctor to properly assess them. Patient advocates can help.

Patient advocates can meet with your family member before their doctors visit to prepare them. They might have them practice listing their symptoms, medical history, and goals for treatment. They may also brief them about what to expect for the specific appointment. 

This can make the doctor’s consultation more effective overall as well as decrease your loved one’s anxiety.

Getting a diagnosis from a doctor can be confusing as well. Patient advocates can help clear up what a diagnosis means so you and your loved one can prepare for future treatment.

For instance, your loved one might not fully understand what a dementia diagnosis entails. A patient advocate can help them come to terms with what’s happening while also preparing them for the symptoms that are to come.

Address Complaints

If your loved one has been going to a new doctor, but they don’t feel they are receiving adequate care, patient advocates can help to address these issues and provide a solution. This might mean looking for a new doctor in the area or calling the practice to see if they can have their practitioner switched.

From minor complaints to more major complaints, a patient advocate can make phone calls to lift some of the stress from your shoulders.

Where To Get a Patient Advocate

Some insurance providers offer patient advocate services as part of their plan. Call your insurance company and see if this is something you can utilize.

If not, see if your long-term care facility offers patient advocate programs. Some places have specific individuals in-house to help with all of your needs.

How To Become a Patient Advocate

You may not need to seek a licensed individual to be a patient advocate for you and your loved one. You can be a patient advocate, too. Just remember that if caring for your loved one becomes too stressful, you are never alone. Help is always available.

Keep Everyone Informed

Communication is one of the biggest skills that a patient advocate must possess. A professional patient advocate is always keeping you, your loved one, and their care facility up to date with all changes at any given moment.

For you, this means making sure that those important in your loved one’s life understand their condition/diagnosis. It also means that your care facilities have in-depth knowledge of your loved one’s wants and needs.

Stay Organized

Older adults need to go to a lot of appointments and meet with a lot of people. This means a lot of prescriptions, bills, and instruction sheets. It’s imperative that you keep everything organized so you can find everything you need, whenever you need it.

Do Your Own Research

You can be an even better patient advocate by educating yourself on different medications and conditions that your loved one might be suffering from. While their doctor will be as thorough as possible, having background knowledge can help to properly inform your family member of any questions that they might have about their condition.

You also should do some research about the typical cost of medical bills for certain procedures. This gives you the ability to notice if something is incorrect on your own bill, giving you the option to contact insurance or the billing department of the care facility for adjustments.

Be Compassionate

If you decide to become a patient advocate for a member of your family, it’s not going to be your only responsibility. You may still need to work at your own day job, take care of your children, and handle all the other tasks you regularly have on the day to day. When you take on all of these responsibilities, it can be hard to keep a cool head.

With that said, lashing out at your loved one is an easy way to stress them out. Providing quality care should be the number one priority, and if you ever notice that your loved one is suffering because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, it’s time to look into some outside assistance.

When is Patient Advocacy Necessary?

Not everyone will need to utilize a patient advocate to get their loved one the proper care, but it is an effective way to reduce the burden on your shoulders. 

If the medical bills, appointments, and insurance become too much for you to handle on your own, it might be time to get a patient advocate.

Especially with dementia, it can be difficult to try to take care of your loved one while also dealing with the financial aspects of their treatment. Patient advocates can help close the gaps and help to improve both you and your loved one’s quality of life.

In Conclusion

A patient advocate helps patients receive the best possible care at the most affordable rates. They are an invaluable resource for dementia care, as the stressors of caregiving can be burdensome for family members.

Patient advocates have a number of responsibilities, including:

  • Helping to understand medical bills
  • Giving detailed information and preparation for doctor’s visits
  • Addressing complaints
  • Acting as a liaison between doctors, family members, and the patient

You may even decide to become a patient advocate for your loved one on your own. You’ll need to stay communicative and organized as well as educated and organized to give your family members the highest quality care possible.

But when it gets to be too much, help is always available. Lightyear Health is a multispecialty group that focuses on providing patients with cutting-edge care. We are specialists in physical medicine and rehab, pain management and behavioral health who believe in a coordinated approach to care.

To learn more about how Lightyear Health can improve you and your loved one’s quality of life, click here.


Professional Patient Advocates: What They Do and How it Works | Own Your Health

What is Dementia? Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Understanding compassion for people with dementia in medical and nursing students | NCBI

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