Family caregivers can play many roles, like scheduler, financial manager, housecleaner, encourager, nurse, navigator, nurturer and more. But the most important role is advocate, ensuring the best life possible for our family and friends when they are vulnerable, says AARP in “How to Be an Effective Advocate for Aging Parents.”
That means knowing what they want for care and quality of life and then making sure those wishes are followed. It also includes helping loved ones manage finances and legal matters, and making certain they receive appropriate and high-quality services and treatments when needed.
Here are a few important skills, many of which you may already possess:
- Observation. We’re typically too busy or tired to notice small changes, but sometimes the slightest shift in a loved one’s ability, health, moods, safety or needs is a sign of a larger problem or health challenge. You need to catch those changes early to make a difference. Reviewing the services they’re receiving and adjusting any substandard care is another big responsibility.
- Organization. There’s a lot of moving parts in a caregiving plan. Organization is a real challenge. As an advocate, be sure you can easily access all legal documents you need, like power of attorney for finances and health care.
- Communication. It’s always an important skill for building relationships, especially with those who help care for your loved ones, like attorneys, aides and doctors. Try to be respectful and set your emotions aside when you are advocating for a loved one. And know that listening is just as important as speaking in effective communication. Be clear, concise and to the point—and show your gratitude.
- Questioning. Ask questions! But be prepared and do your job of gathering information. Educate yourself about your loved ones' health conditions and financial or legal matters. Don't stop until you’re satisfied with the answers you receive. Take notes.
- Tenacity. As a loved one’s advocate, you must have their best interests at heart and take the job seriously. When caregiving knocks you off your feet, get back up. Resilience is key.
An elder law attorney can be a valuable resource to help you and your loved ones in need.
Reference: AARP (November 1, 2016) “How to Be an Effective Advocate for Aging Parents”