“Advocating” means pushing to ensure the best care is provided for people who can’t be a spokesperson for themselves.

When our children are sick, we advocate powerfully and tirelessly for them. We take time off work; make sure they’re never alone; grill every Doctor about what’s going on; zealously ask the pharmacy about what’s prescribed; make sure the specialists are talking to each other; we basically do whatever it takes to guarantee the best and fastest recovery. Advocating for our children is our #1 job.

How about our senior parents or grandparents? They rarely get the same level of advocacy we wield for our children. Their spouse may not be able to understand everything that’s going on and may not want to burden their kids by involving them. Maybe the grown kids don’t live close enough to help daily. Even if grown kids live close by, caring for your parents and your kids at the same time can be very taxing.

The reality is that seniors need advocacy as much as children do. Spend time at Sick Kids and then visit a medical ward at most other hospitals and note the difference in the ratio of staff to patients between the two. Typically when a senior is sick, multiple specialists are involved; more medications are prescribed; and recovery is longer, more complicated and requires dedicated rehabilitation.

What can we do?

  1. Be up to date regarding your parents’ medications and medical condition(s).
  2. Know their doctors’ names and phone numbers.
  3. Ensure your parents have chosen their Powers of Attorney and have considered a LivingWill.
  4. If they travel, know the details of their insurance plans (Company, Policy#, Phone #s).
  5. In a crisis, meet early with all the family members who are able to help and determine whichtasks each person can take on.
  6. Keep a journal in the hospital room where notes can be shared between family caregivers.
  7. Take copious notes when talking to doctors and nurses and insist they speak slowly orrepeat themselves if needed so you can understand what is said.
  8. Don’t be afraid to make your concerns heard by nurses and doctors and respectfully insistthat your questions are answered.
  9. Consider hiring caregivers so you can focus on advocating for your loved one andorganizing details and people. Remember, you also need to get some rest.
  10. Rehab is critical to full recovery so stay fully involved once your parent is out of the hospital.

They were there for us — now it’s our turn to be there for them.