As independent advocates, we help clients who have encountered challenges with something related to their healthcare. That’s what we do. That’s our job.
But sometimes it’s those things we aren’t expected to do that can make us THE go-to person when someone needs healthcare assistance. Those extra touches that interface with our work, but aren’t the first things that come to mind when someone thinks of health or patient advocacy or care management.
Franny Fredericks, a young widow, age 55, has run into problems with her radiation treatments. Her doctor admitted her to the hospital for several days. But no one is home, her adult kids live out of town, and Franny worries…
- Who will take care of her pets?
- Her mail and newspapers will pile up in her mailbox or her driveway.
- She is expecting a box from an order she placed – if it stays on the front step, it can be stolen!
- Who’s going to water her plants, or shovel her driveway, or cut her grass?
- Now she can’t get to her eye and dentist appointments later this week. They need to be rescheduled.
- … you get the drift. There could be dozens of others. But she’s frustrated and scared, and not thinking about how they can be taken care of….
How much better Franny would feel, how much more she could relax, how much more healing could take place, if you made arrangements for all those daily-life-needs to be taken care of! They may not be considered advocacy services, per se. But they are certainly appropriate services when you take a 360° view of your client’s situation.
There are several circumstances under which this sort of help might be appreciated: Any hospitalization like Franny’s is an obvious one. Others might include: a family with a young child who needs cancer treatment needs at a center far from home. Or a patient who plans any sort of medical trip to another location – medical tourism is a growing approach to medical care. Even a patient who has already returned home from a difficult procedure or treatment would appreciate unexpected assistance so he or she doesn’t need to make the effort him or herself.
Who needs this sort of help? Anyone who is responsible for these tasks while at home, and won’t be there to take care of them, including:
- Seniors who need treatment themselves even as they are caregivers for someone else
- “Solos” – also known as “Elder Orphans” – anyone who lives alone and needs assistance, not necessarily an older person
- Someone who has fallen sick, or is injured away from home – if you live in the area in which that person lives, you might be able to help out
Of course, we need to ask, how does an advocate get paid for these kinds of services? Especially if the need was not anticipated, it’s not really something you would typically build into a contract…
If not, then just do them, and don’t expect payment. Think of these sorts of assistance as the icing on the cake of your advocacy services – little extras that can make a huge difference in your clients’ peace of mind and regard for you. you don’t really even need to do them yourself. You can make arrangements for a neighbor to retrieve mail and newspapers, or to look in on a cat, or perhaps walk the dog.
Important! You don’t need to wait until a client is hospitalized, or already out of town, to offer extra services. Whenever possible, discuss these tasks and your help ahead of time. You might even consider making a checklist of these kinds of things, along with a packing list for the hospital, and present them to a client (with your logo large and bright, of course!) as a tool to help them prepare for the experience.
How do you know Franny will be appreciative? Because you’re going to ask her if you can help. Don’t just jump in without Franny’s go ahead. Just because she has been hospitalized doesn’t mean she can’t be part of the choices made. If you know she will be hospitalized, ask her ahead of time. If she’s already away from home, call or visit her, talk about the things that must be done, email her your checklist if you have one, and ask her how you can help. She’ll be able to give you the neighbor’s name, tell you what appointments need to be postponed, or even put you in touch with her dog’s favorite kennel.
Sometimes it’s the little things, fretted over or forgotten in the fear of the event, that bring about the greatest appreciation. In addition, thinking beyond your list of advocacy services can produce positive word-of-mouth referrals, a huge boon to your practice, making you an advocacy hero.
… not to mention how good you’ll feel that you’ve made someone’s life so much easier…
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