Friday, May 15, 2015

Advocacy 101: When it's time to spill your guts!

Stepping into the role of advocate for your aging parent is hard.  Duh! As an advocate you speak and act on behalf of him or her.  You may choose assisted living or nursing care, discuss medical issues with providers and settle issues with caregivers.

You'll meet authority figures:  doctors, lawyers, social workers, nurses and more.  If you're like me, you'll be tempted to see yourself as less able, given their higher level of expertise.

Remember this: You are the authority on your parent.  Don't ever forget the power your knowledge and experience gives you.  Working together with professionals, you can get good outcomes.  And especially if you know when to spill your guts and when not to.

Spill your guts when...the professional needs as much information about your parent as possible
to help you reach your goals.  I work as a senior referral agent with Silver Age Housing & Care Referrals, helping adult children find the right assisted living, adult family home or in-home care for their parents.  I ask family members, "Tell me about what's going on with your parent?" "How are you coping with the situation?" and "What are your parent's hobbies and interests?"  I feel privileged to listen to the long version. The more I hear, the better I know the older adult and the family.  That knowledge helps me to find excellent care options.

Another place that's safe to spill your guts is in a caregiver support group.  You don't have to worry that if you vent, people will judge you.  They absolutely won't.  Group members are all in the same boat. They can laugh at situations others would find deplorable.  And if you talk too long, the leader will gently ask you to wrap it up so others can speak.

Don't spill your guts when...the professional needs the short version.  Doctors only have 10 or 15 minutes to solve your parent's problems, so it's best to discuss only the most pressing concern.  If you do need to talk about other things, make a list and speak briefly about each item.  Of course, there are doctors who do allow you to spill you guts, but do so sparingly.

Over time you'll know which people can take the long version and which need the condensed version of your parent's story.  But remember, no matter what initials are to the right of his or her name, you have a Doctorate in Parentology.  Use the knowledge wisely.

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