Advocacy for Everyone

by Joanna Smith on Jan 25, 2011

Healthcare Liaison has a training and Credentialing Program specifically for medical professionals who want to be certified as healthcare advocates.  A class of seven just passed their certification exams, and they are now running their own businesses as Certified Healthcare Advocates.  You can see them–and see if one of them is in your area–by going to www.healthcareliaison.com/advocates.html .

Each time a group graduates, I am struck by how many people want to go specifically into the field of eldercare advocacy.  While it is true that the population is “graying” as baby boomers enter their retirement years, I constantly wonder about how young families with children with life-threatening illnesses manage to navigate our complex system.  I puzzle about there are many advocates who want to work with the elderly, but few who want to work with children and families:  after all, it’s not just seniors who are confused and overwhelmed by healthcare; it’s everyone.  It is one of the aspects that I most love about how I work:  I have clients of all ages and it keeps me focused on the entire range of healthcare, not just one age group.  I love working with seniors, and I love working with other age groups as well.

I have thought about this a lot because one of the populations I like working with is families with children who have complex medical conditions. Somehow, I think, there is a belief, even in medical systems, that young children and families don’t need help navigating through a medical crisis because the medical system takes care of them through the concept of “Medical Home” and there’s no need for more help.  I know, however, from watching parents with a sick child in the intensive care unit, or a family struggling with a child’s diagnosis of leukemia, that there is a need.  What kinds of services can I offer those families?

  • Help in formulating their questions to ask the medical team
  • Explanations of what is happening
  • Assistance with complex decision-making about treatment options
  • Support for second or third opinions
  • Guidance with decision-making
  • Help with managing family and friends
  • Following the family through the entire range of care
  • Insurance company assistance

My concern with healthcare advocates and the emerging profession is that advocates will specialize too quickly without first having a solid background in working with all age groups.  I think an advocate is a better advocate when they choose breadth first and then narrow to a specialty.