Helping caregivers and families improve interaction with their loved one is the job of an emerging new field of care managers, dementia coaches and patient advocates.
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They are valuable team players. You don’t have to carry the entire game on your shoulders.
Going to the Bullpen
Did you know that caregivers have their own versions of relief pitchers? They go by different names, but these champions can guide you along your caregiving journey, help you through the toughest innings and lift some of the burden.
“Advocates help empower patients and caregivers to take more control over managing the disease, set goals, stay safe in the healthcare environment and be a real part of the care team,” says professional advocate and author Trisha Torrey.
Professional patient advocates, many with nursing or social work backgrounds, ensure your loved one’s voice is heard and are there to help you make more informed medical decisions.
According to the Professional Patient Advocate Institute in Gaithersburg, MD, advocates tackle tasks like accompanying your loved one to medical appointments, negotiating with insurers, handling medical bills and paperwork, or doing research to help you better understand treatment and service options.
Money Well Spent
Patient advocates operate outside of the existing insurance reimbursement system, so you’ll pay out of pocket for their services. Yet, Torrey says, many caregivers find that it’s well worth the expense to have a knowledgable, proactive professional speak up, ask questions, resolve issues and reduce some of the day-to-day stress.
Patient navigators guide you and your loved one along the continuum of care, resolve barriers to that care and help to make each step as smooth and seamless as possible, according to Harold P. Freeman, M.D., founder and president of the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute in New York City.
Dr. Freeman, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, pioneered the concept of patient navigation to help low-income patients navigate the health system.
“Navigators work to connect the myriad specialists within the varied systems of care, such as primary care sites and tertiary care sites, so that each can do their job most efficiently,” he wrote.
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