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Caring for someone as a medical advocate

A medical advocate is someone who intercedes, supports or in other ways helps a patient communicate with caregivers. The practice of medicine today is so complex that it can be difficult for health care workers to communicate well with patients and respond to a patient’s individual needs and questions. When someone is ill, upset, or incapacitated by surgery or other medical procedures, that person may find it difficult to ask questions or understand important information. This is why it can be very helpful for a patient entering the hospital or for someone undergoing care for a complex medical condition to have a spouse, friend or relative act as their medical advocate. This person need not have a medical background, but should be willing to become informed and not hesitate to ask questions on behalf of the patient.

If you are acting as someone’s medical advocate, you can prepare to accompany that person to doctor and hospital visits by learning more about the disease or procedure. Read the background information available at a reliable web site, such as the National Institutes of Health information site (health.nih.gov) or the Mayo Clinic web site (mayoclinic.com). Read the educational material and instructions given to the patient. Talk with the patient about what he or she needs to know from physicians and other caregivers. At the appointment, listen carefully, take notes, and help the patient ask follow-up questions to clarify instructions and information.
 
In the hospital a medical advocate asks about all medical procedures and medications, oral and IV. (What is that? What will it do?) If the patient is uncomfortable or needs assistance, the advocate speaks with nurses and doctors, ensuring the patient gets good care. A medical advocate helps caregivers to see a patient as an individual who deserves to be treated as more than a number or a chart, but as a human being, someone’s loved one, a beloved child of God.  
 
Please do not feel that you are annoying the medical staff with your efforts at advocacy. Remember to thank caregivers for their time and attention. If the hospital stay extends beyond 3-4 days, a large box of Fannie May candy placed at the nursing station is helpful. Even though you may be the squeaky wheel, you get more bees with honey than with vinegar.

Above all, pray with the patient and remind him or her of God’s presence. One highly regarded orthopedic surgeon in Sweden wrote in a book that his patients who themselves prayed and had others praying on their behalf recovered markedly faster than those who did not. The surgeon had been a self-described agnostic, but these observations led him to a profound belief in God.

Grace's Parish Nurse can help you serve as a medical advocate for a friend or family member.  Please contact Kim Ramos (708-366-6900; kramos@graceriverforest.org) if you need assistance.