Becoming the Empowered Caregiver: Knowledge is Power
For many of us in the baby boomer and generation X eras, our parents have become older and sometimes sickly. According to U.S. News and World Report, an estimated 3.3 million Americans will be in nursing homes in 2013. It has fallen to us, their children, to take care of them. Often we turn to outside healthcare facilities and professionals for help. Sometimes this is an intimidating and even downright scary prospect. However, it is important to know that it doesn’t have to be. What is the key to ensuring your loved one receives the best care available? Knowledge.
Ultimately, caregiving for an elderly loved one is about information. The more we have, the more effective we are. The more we seek, the more we get. We become an empowered caregiver. Conversely, if the health care providers hold all the information, we become dependent upon them and your power is gone.
Caregiving is not a passive activity. It can’t be. Those who protect their loved ones work at it. They gather the right information in the right format. They ask the right questions, they provide the right data and they do so in the right manner. Their advocacy is timely, efficient and evolving. This type of empowered caregiver is someone to be reckoned with and someone every health care provider must respect. Too often I have seen families become completely dependent on their elderly loved one’s health care professional, resulting in substandard care and even outright neglect and abuse.
In my “Empowered Caregiver” seminars, I teach caregivers about the information they must arm themselves with to be effective advocates for their loved ones, ensuring they receive only the best healthcare available to them. In this blog series, I aim to do the same. I’ll explore and explain what you can do to ensure that you become an empowered caregiver, managing your loved one’s health care effectively, including:
- Creating the right first impression with the health care professionals
- Arming yourself with information such as who interacts with your loved one, what diagnoses they may have, and what medications they take
- What to do if you discover neglect, malpractice or abuse
I’ve been litigating nursing home and elderly abuse cases for over 15 years. I have seen unimaginable horrors in the medical institutions that we trust with the lives of our loved ones. I have dedicated my life to combating abuse and neglect of our institutionalized elderly. Nonetheless, I have come to learn that this epidemic is not a one-sided issue. We cannot focus solely on the institution to protect our loved ones. We must become intimately involved in the care our loved ones receive. Neglect and abuse cannot always be prevented but it’s my sincere hope that with the information in this brief series you are better equipped to prevent it in your situation.