A person nearing the end of their life has often been diagnosed with a terminal illness, which can take a toll on physical and mental functioning, as well as induce severe emotional distress. In such times, it can be difficult for a patient to advocate on their own behalf, and family members may be paralyzed by the emotional crisis of losing their loved one. Having an objective, competent third party to provide clarity, understanding, and assistance managing medical and personal affairs can be invaluable. A patient advocate can help patients communicate better with their healthcare practitioners so they can understand the information and then be better able to make informed decisions. Patient Advocates can help set up doctor visits and other medical appointments, and can help patients to get the financial, legal and social support related to and needed for the end of life. Many advocates have resources for attorneys, CPAs and other providers who can assist the patient during this time.
Advocates may, at the patient’s request, accompany the patient to a doctor visit. Having a patient advocate present at doctor appointments is especially useful when family members are out of state and the patient is alone. Having a trusted advocate there can help ease the mind of the family and help the patient to feel more safe and secure. Whether a patient’s mental functioning is impacted by illness and stress or not, the chances are that the language of physicians and winding medical systems will prove a challenge to untangle and comprehend. Patient advocates often have a background with the healthcare industry, and can help to translate the information into layman’s terms. Advocates can listen with objective ears and help to explain things in ways that make sense to the patient as well as help the patient to ask appropriate questions about the care or prognosis of their disease/illness.
Another way that a patient advocate comes in especially handy at the end of life is by helping patients and their families to navigate hospice options. Patient advocates can work to locate the appropriate place for the patient to live, making sure they have the right kind of home health or palliative care and ensuring their needs are met as the end of life process unfolds. Hospice care primarily focuses on medical care, such as prescribing and administering medications and performing health condition checkups. Due to budget and time constraints, hospice workers are spread thinly and often do not have extra time to spend with the patients or their families to help them navigate the end of life process.
As a Patient Advocate and End of Life Doula, I take pride in my commitment to connecting and spending meaningful time with my patient and their loved ones. I feel it is my duty to understand their wishes, conditions, and needs, and to help them craft a plan for their remaining time alive that helps them transition on their terms, peacefully. Providing that extra level of support and understanding, has been very helpful to my patients at the end of their life. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions.