Caregiver Transitions: Proving the Value of Patient Advocates

By Debby Deutsch | May 16, 2020 (published on the Greater National Advocates website, https://www.gnanow.org)

During current stay at home orders, many family members and loved ones have suddenly found themselves in the unanticipated role of caregiver. Likewise, those who were already caring for friends or family before coronavirus have expanded their roles and taken on significant additional challenges, some to the point of physically relocating to the home of a loved one, many times in a different geographic location. This has proven to be of great benefit to the recipient and has significantly raised the caregiver’s awareness of the true needs of the patient.

“Once caregivers become more intimately involved with their loved one, they obtain a far greater appreciation for the level of support required, oftentimes at a significantly higher level than they previously realized.”

Often, the family caregiver is initially aware of the basics, but often not the full extent of support required. The basics often include helping adhere to a medication schedule, following through with healthcare appointments, assistance with meals and hygiene, providing companionship, and keeping an eye on home safety. Once caregivers become more intimately involved with their loved one, they obtain a far greater appreciation for the level of support required, oftentimes at a significantly higher level than they previously realized. Even seasoned caregivers who have been in the “caregiver trenches” for years have discovered a greater appreciation of the needs and requirements for quality care and support.

The COVID-19 lockdown has forced many caregivers to “stay at home.” As a result, more time equates with more knowledge of needs. But as stay at home restrictions begin to ease, many previously homebound caregivers are slowly reducing their direct support while struggling to maintain quality of care for a loved one. 

“The true value of a private Patient Advocate becomes apparent when the family caregiver begins to realize there are additional support requirements that are beyond their knowledge and abilities.”

 Just when these caregivers transition out of the continual care that was prompted by the lockdown, they quickly realize the need for other resources to maintain the level of care they have been providing. These new needs that arise can be daunting because they are completely beyond the realm of what was expected. Instead of concentrating on companionship, hygiene, and home safety, family caregivers suddenly face insurance issues, medical billing problems, care coordination, and transition to a new or different facility.

At this point, the caregiver has realized the enormity of support requirements and is significantly more receptive to idea of outside support in the form of a Patient Advocate to coordinate that support. The true value of a private Patient Advocate becomes apparent when the family caregiver begins to realize there are additional support requirements that are beyond their knowledge and abilities. 

“The coronavirus outbreak has provided patient advocates with an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to ease the burden on family caregivers.”

Fortunately, the emerging discipline of Patient Advocacy provides a way for caregivers to continue the high level of support required for their loved ones. And while there continues to be a lack of awareness of the availability of these services, overall knowledge and acceptance of the profession is improving every day. The coronavirus outbreak has provided patient advocates with an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to ease the burden on family caregivers  

Recently, we have taken on several clients where the family was providing direct support for a family member that was in a remote location. These clients were either temporarily displaced workers or had work from home options. Therefore, they were able to temporarily relocate to support patient needs. However, they are now transitioning into more traditional workplace settings and are no longer able to provide direct, hands-on support. 

“Our challenge is now to increase our visibility to a very receptive audience.”

Some realized the potential of virtual support, but were unable to visualize how this could be implemented, particularly for more acute, specialized needs. We were able to not only educate the caregiver, but more significantly, demonstrate that we could satisfy those needs. As a result, we now have several active clients through which we are providing virtual advanced support.  

The increased involvement and subsequent withdrawal of direct support by the family caregiver has both increased the awareness of the need for Patient Advocates and the opportunity to provide that support. Our challenge is now to increase our visibility to a very receptive audience.

Debby Deutsch BCPA

Patient Care Partners LLC

608.445.5431

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