Caring for your aging parent or senior loved one is a rewarding but often demanding experience—the title of caregiver carries significant responsibility. One essential requirement of taking on this role is acting as a personal advocate for your senior loved one.
As people age, it’s not unusual for them to need help making decisions regarding their personal care or lifestyle. Aside from having assistance with their usual daily care tasks or routines, many seniors appreciate having someone to assist them with making certain life choices. Of course, recognizing the point at which they cannot make these decisions alone can be challenging, so remain open-minded, communicative, and supportive when discussing their needs.
Understanding your aging loved one’s levels of independence and autonomy, both now and in the future, is vital to being a strong senior parent advocate. The following article illustrates the importance of advocacy for this age group and outlines how to be a reliable senior care advocate for your loved one.
What It Means to Be a Senior Care Advocate
Healthy, productive conversations with your parent are essential to prepare everyone for their later-in-life care. If you need to know how to advocate medical help for your senior parent now, the following information will help you take the best approach.
Sufficient senior advocate services require the caregiver to ensure the best possible life for their aging loved one during periods of ambiguity. This means they effectively advocate for their loved one’s best interests and bridge the gap between the senior and the care they need, whether that care is medical, legal, or otherwise.
Advocating for your senior loved one means acting in their best interest, not yours or someone else’s, so they can have the life they desire as they age.
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Recommendations for Senior Parent Advocates
Naturally, being a senior parent advocate involves more than just knowing the definition or the importance of advocacy. Diligent caregivers actively tend to this responsibility every day.
1. Educate yourself and others about their condition.
Research your loved one’s conditions, and talk to them about how they feel day-to-day. Their overall well-being is affected by medical conditions, financial situations, current events, and more. Look into these details of their life, and check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing. Ask about any financial or legal affairs, and take note of how they feel, both emotionally and physically.
To understand more complex situations—such as an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis, inheritance, or retirement—explore reputable educational resources for professional insights and background knowledge.
2. Ask questions when they arise.
As a senior advocate, the only way to both confirm information and clarify doubts is by asking necessary questions as soon as they arise. This means inquiring with service agents, doctors, attorneys, and any other professionals when you or your loved one is unsure about the course of action or next steps.
Similarly, don’t rush to assume you know what’s best for them. If you’re unsure how your senior parent feels about something in particular, ask for their input before making any decisions on their behalf.
3. Be present, and use your observational skills.
When spending time with your senior parent or loved one, remain in the present moment with them. Give them your full attention, and stay alert to changes in their attitude, demeanor, and sleeping patterns. Even small behavioral changes can be an indicator of a larger issue, so actively observing is paramount. When you’re together, try to keep the conversation going by prompting them with questions so they have plenty of opportunities to communicate their needs and feelings.
4. Do your homework, and stay on top of recordkeeping.
Before meetings with lawyers, medical professionals, and other providers, find out what information or documentation you need to prepare to make decisions on behalf of your aging loved one. Many initiatives, particularly legal and medical decisions, require some type of release authorization or power of attorney (more on that later). Readying the appropriate documents for these interactions can help to make lengthy processes smoother and less stressful for every party involved.
5. Be concise and clear when communicating.Regardless of who you’re interacting with, always be as clear and succinct as possible when communicating any suggestions or thoughts. Be assertive but not aggressive, because a combative attitude can lead to unnecessary tension. Instead, be firm, confident, and thorough. You’re representing someone else’s best interests, so prioritize clarity and specificity in all of your communications with representatives or providers.
Moreover, the same advice applies to your interactions and conversations with your aging loved one. Be honest, ask questions, and repeat their statements back to them for confirmation. Keep your language and word choices straightforward to reduce the risk of confusion or miscommunication.
6. Try to remain positive and stay resilient.
As you know, being a caregiver can sometimes feel discouraging during situations that you have no control over. Although these feelings of frustration are valid, expressing them openly to your loved one is not productive. Try to stay optimistic about the future regardless of circumstance—a positive attitude is often contagious.
Managing Legal Matters
Earlier, we touched on the importance of doing your homework and remaining vigilant about recordkeeping. Below, we elaborate on what type of paperwork and authorizations you may need when acting as a senior parent advocate and full-time senior caregiver.
Establish a power of attorney.
Often in the case of aging parents, family members such as children or siblings have concerns about their senior loved one’s ability to make major life decisions for themselves. Power of attorney (POA) is one of a handful of estate planning tools, such as a living will, which gives a trusted person the authority to make life choices on behalf of someone else. In other words, a friend or family member can request to take over the responsibilities of determining medical treatment, managing finances, and authorizing end-of-life care in the event the aging adult can no longer reliably do so.
Many of these choices must be made in advance, before your aging loved one reaches the point that they can no longer make such significant decisions themselves. It’s never too early to discuss these options with your parent or loved one. If you haven’t had this crucial conversation yet, Cedarhurst can help you know where to start when talking about senior living.
Assemble other important documentation.
With or without POA, a caregiver acting as a senior care advocate for their loved one should have any relevant personal information and important documentation on hand when managing their legal matters.
Access to the following information and corresponding documents, if applicable, may be necessary when handling various legal affairs:
- Financial information: Deeds, titles, pension documents, loans, debts, and credit account information
- Healthcare information: Release authorization, insurance card or coverage documents, emergency contact, and living will
- End-of-life information: Last will and testament, trust documents, and life insurance policy
- Additional legal information: Marriage certificates, divorce papers, military records, safety deposit box access, birth certificate, passport, social security card, and driver’s license
Your Role as a Senior Advocate Is Essential
The most important thing to remember is that, as a caregiver, you represent your loved one’s plans, beliefs, and opinions. In other words, try not to let the personal opinions of yourself or others stand in the way of their autonomy and dignity.
Caregiving and the accompanying advocacy is tough work, but you’re not alone. Cedarhurst is here to support you and your senior parent or loved one every step of the way. We offer numerous family caregiver resources for senior parent advocates and others looking for additional advice on senior living and finding the right community.