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Professional Spotlight: Dr. Michael O’Neal, Concierge Medicine

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Tampa Bay concierge physician

This month we are celebrating our healthcare providers by sharing with you some of the great team members that contribute to our clients’ excellent care. Today, we have the pleasure of talking about Dr. Michael O’Neal, a groundbreaking doctor with a different approach to patient care. He founded Cooperative Med, a concierge medicine practice serving Tampa Bay.

Background: Dr. Michael O’Neal

Dr. O’Neal received his undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida (USF) and attended medical school at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. He completed residency training at USF College of Medicine, where he was elected the Chief Resident. Dr. O’Neal has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and received awards for his scholarly achievements, research, and contributions. He was 1 of only 15 national physicians to receive the American Medical Association (AMA) Young Physician Leadership Award.

About Cooperative Med, Concierge Medicine in Tampa Bay

CooperativeMed, founded in 2002 by Dr. Michael O’Neal, is a pioneer in the development of concierge (also known as membership/boutique) medical practices. Dr. O’Neal is credited with developing the first concierge medical practice in the U.S. created from scratch (non-transitioned). Concierge medicine offers a low volume practice setting which allows the physician to devote more time and energy to each patient, individualizing care.

Dr. O’Neal wanted to create a different option for those dissatisfied with today’s high-volume, managed-care health care system, where physicians are compelled to care for upwards of 3,000 patients. In contrast, CooperativeMed limits the number of patient members, providing a higher level of service to fewer patients, while focusing on disease prevention, health maintenance, nutrition, lifestyle changes, patient advocacy, and high-quality care. In order to sustain a practice of only 350 patients, each member pays an annual membership fee.

“As our population continues to age, and the number of patients within traditional practices grows, it will become even more important for medically complex individuals to consider concierge care in order to receive the desired level of service, and arguably the desired level of care,” states Dr. O’Neal.  “One of the greatest values to being a member of a concierge medical practice is that the physician is more capable of being a patient advocate, which becomes even more relevant as we grow older, accumulate medical problems, and need more medical attention and care oversight.”

The Benefits of Working with Dr. O’Neal

The Aging Wisely team appreciates Dr. O’Neal’s collaborative approach to healthcare. Each patient is encouraged to be a proactive participant, targeting health care goals in partnership with the physician and other involved professionals.

Dr. O’Neal prides himself on developing nurturing relationships with patients and fulfilling their previously unmet health care needs. Cooperative Med’s concept blends modern medical technology (micronutrient and genetic testing, sophisticated cholesterol profiling, use of technology to extend care such as virtual visits via your iPad or iPhone) with traditional philosophies (home visits, advocacy, more face time with the physician and less wait time).

We’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. O’Neal for a number of our Aging Wisely and EasyLiving clients. As Care Manager Julie Scott shares, “I, as well as my clients, feel he goes beyond the scope of medical treatment to remain in tune with the whole patient, which makes the difference between compliance and non-compliance, treatment or no treatment and feeling good about whatever decision is made…”. Julie explains that Dr. O’Neal not only respects patient wishes but takes the time to discuss options with them and weigh pros and cons, not only medically but socially, emotionally and with regards to potential outcomes. By making home visits to elder patients, Dr. O’Neal adds a level of convenience to their lives, but is also better able to assess their situation and get to know them.

The results of the collaborative approach are clear for patients and their families, as Dr. O’Neal shares: “Over the past 13 years, there have been numerous instances where the in-home physician care we provide and advocacy, combined with the services provided by Aging Wisely, were able to keep people safely in their homes. I frequently see examples of the Aging Wisely and CooperativeMed collaboration reducing the emotional burden placed on a family who often assumes the care and decision making for their elderly parents.”

Looking to The Future of Healthcare and Eldercare

As the health care climate changes, CooperativeMed continues to be a leader in the field of concierge medicine. Dr. O’Neal explains some of the recent developments to better meet patients’ holistic needs, “We have recently introduced a novel TeleHealth program that allows for remote patient monitoring and the transfer of diagnostic data to the physician. We have also created a concierge dental program, a TelePsych program, and added private physical therapy for aggressive in-home therapy.”

To learn more, check out Dr. Michael O’Neal and Cooperative Med concierge medicine online or contact us for more information and ways our Aging Wisely team can put the best care team in place for you!

Aging Wisely and EasyLiving, your family’s advocates: ensuring quality of life and supporting you with:

Call us at 727-447-5845 for answers, resources and all the ways we can help!

 

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Patient Advocacy Spotlight: Healthcare Planning

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We hope you have enjoyed the information from our Aging in America conference presentation on “A Better Approach to Eldercare Planning“. An important aspect of that planning process is healthcare planning. With National Healthcare Decisions Day coming up on April 16th, it is a great time to reflect on the importance of healthcare planning and its key components.

To frame the issue, here are a few interesting facts from the National Healthcare Decisions Day website:

  • Less than 50 percent of the severely or terminally ill patients studied had an advance directive in their medical record.
  • Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians whose patients had an advance directive were not aware that it existed.
  • Having a living will was associated with lower probability of dying in a hospital for nursing home residents and people living in the community.
  • Patients and families are often not fully informed of the relevant risks and potential benefits of artificial nutrition and hydration.

Did you know? The Federal Patient Self-Determination Act requires all Medicare-participating healthcare facilities inquire about and provide information to patients about advance directives (states also mandate such requirements for various healthcare entities, such as home healthcare and senior care providers, under their regulations). Yet, as we can see from the statistics above (and our anecdotal evidence as patient advocates, working with clients and healthcare providers day in and day out), this is just a small step in the right direction. Many gaps and misunderstandings remain in this complex process of healthcare planning and decision making.

Though this is a complex topic, there are some key steps you and your family can take. Here are some tips from our advocates about both advance care planning and decision making:

  • Get the key legal documents in place. Execute advance directives such as a living will and healthcare surrogate (also known as healthcare power of attorney). A durable power of attorney, though it covers finances and other practical decisions, is also a vital part of this planning process as these types of decisions often interrelate. Make sure to keep these documents in a handy place and provide copies to loved ones who are involved in your care. Get copies on the records with your healthcare providers.
  • Talk about it. In reality, the conversations should come first. Sharing what you wish with your decision makers is vital to help them do their job should they have to act on your behalf. Talking with others can also help you work through your beliefs and priorities. This is not a single conversation, of course, but an ongoing one. The parameters and the way you feel will likely change. There are some great resources at the National Healthcare Decisions Day website (check “resources for family conversations”). Our geriatric care managers include advance care planning as one component of our comprehensive assessment, to find out the status of client’s legal documents and also offer help with these conversations. However, the patient advocacy extends over time as the client’s health changes. The advocate can not only encourage and mediate conversations, but help ensure clients and families have the information they need to think through the options and consequences.
  • As mentioned above, asking the right questions is a vital part of the decision making process. If your family has prepared as mentioned, having the right information at the time of the decisions is the next step. This means asking healthcare providers to explain risks and benefits and asking for help when you don’t feel you really understand the prognosis and realities. When you are ill (or the worried family member), it can be difficult to process the information. The medical terminology is confusing to begin with and the decisions are often made under pressure. This is one reason why hospitals have developed resources like palliative care teams and ethics committees. This is the area where most families find huge benefits to having an independent advocate by their side as well. When you are diagnosed with a chronic disease or even in the initial stages of facing a more acute condition, gathering the right information up front can help you get the right plan in place and anticipate some of the future decisions.
  • Know where to turn for resources. The National Healthcare Decisions Day website is a great place to learn more, and the web can also be a good place to research your loved one’s condition or a specific procedure or treatment. However, the web is also full of junk and can be a very scary place when you look up a condition (just try typing in some minor symptoms and see the potential diagnoses the web holds for you!). Seek out the recognized disease-specific organizations and experienced healthcare entities for legitimate information (your healthcare providers can often tell you the sources they’d trust). This also means putting together a healthcare team that is best for you…both in expertise and in personality. You need to have good partners in your care who work cooperatively (this means you too!). Your Aging Wisely care manager can help you build this medical team, as well as serve as a liaison to ensure coordinated care.
  • Take a moment to revisit your goals, prognosis and plan. Everything can be so rushed when there is a medical emergency or urgent situation. Sometimes this will just be necessary, but it is also important at some point to pause and think about things (and ask those questions). We hear from adult sons and daughters time and time again who say, “I didn’t realize Mom was having all these tests and treatments. When we talked about what was going on, she didn’t really understand why. It went against everything she wanted.” The elderly parent is often spending most of their time in a doctor’s office, undergoing treatment or tests. Sometimes, this is the reality of fighting a condition, but many times it is because no one stopped to evaluate the situation. Your medical providers generally want to do what is best for you and comply with your wishes, but in this fast-paced system this sometimes requires an “advocacy pause” to think through the plan moving forward.

Need help with patient advocacy in Florida? Our award-winning* team is here to help! Call us at 727-447-5845 or contact us online for SOLUTIONS WHEN YOU NEED THEM!

 

*Nationwide winner 2011, Patient Advocate Organization, Professional Patient Advocacy Institute

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Patient Advocacy for Comprehensive Heart Health

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patient advocacy heart and stroke

February is National Heart Month so now is a  great time to celebrate our amazing cardiovascular systems and learn a little bit more about how to keep our hearts healthy. Even if you have heart disease or have suffered a heart attack or stroke, there is a lot you can do to keep your system as healthy as possible. Aging Wisely’s patient advocates are here to help with information, resources and health management services.

HEART facts…did you know?

  • Every day, your heart beats about 100,000 times, sending 2,000 gallons of blood surging through your body (a kitchen faucet would need to be turned on all the way for 45 years to equal the amount of blood pumped by the heart in an average lifetime).
  • Laughter really may be great medicine: a good belly laugh can send 20% more blood flowing through your body.
  • Don’t ever claim men don’t have big hearts! An adult woman’s heart weighs about 8 ounces, an adult male heart about 10 ounces.

Prevention, health management and safety are all part of a smart heart plan. Here’s a holistic plan for keeping heart healthy and some ways we can help in each area:

  • Eat a healthy diet. A well-balanced diet keeps your body strong and your cardiovascular system healthy. This shouldn’t feel overwhelming…even small changes can make a big difference and a healthy diet can be a tasty one. The American Heart Association recommends: eating an appropriate number of calories for your activity level, eating a variety of foods from all the food groups (emphasizing whole grain foods/fiber, fruits and vegetables and getting at least a couple servings of fish/week), and eating less nutrient-poor foods. These tips are especially important as we age because our calorie and nutrition needs change. Nine out of ten Americans consume too much sodium, which increases risk for high blood pressure–check out this infographic about sodium consumption and ways to reduce intake. Aging Wisely’s patient advocates can refer you to professionals who can create a nutrition plan for you, can set up meal delivery or home caregiver services to ensure you have easy access to healthy meals that you enjoy and can help you monitor your nutrition intake and make changes.
  • Get sufficient physical activity. We work closely with In-Home Fitness, a great group of personal trainers who specialize in older clients and helping individuals rehabilitate. We’d love to set up a consultation with them for you. We can also help with all kinds of resources for staying fit and set up caregiver visits to help keep you on track with regular activities. Some of our EasyLiving home care clients go out dancing each week or get a ride to their local fitness center or swimming pool. We want to keep you doing what you love (and staying physically and mentally healthy at the same time)!
  • Manage stress and lifestyle factors. Quitting smoking is an important component of better health. If you need help with smoking cessation programs and support, we can offer advice and resources. As holistic care managers, we emphasize quality of life and overall well-being. Small changes in your lifestyle and connecting to healthy activities can be a vital part of a healthy, happy life. Physical activity and creative outlets can protect against stress.
  • Be knowledgeable and know where to go for help. Check out the information from the American Heart Association: know the signs of a heart attack and stroke, prevention guidelines and understand your conditions (we’ll be bringing you the key information throughout the next month in our blogs and newsletter). We help filter through the information available to bring you reputable sources, expert referrals and the latest health news.
  • Get good heart and medical care. Practice preventative medicine (did you know Medicare now covers most preventative care and screenings with no copay?) and talk to your providers about your risk factors. We can refer you to specialists and help you prepare for doctor’s appointments. Coordinated care produces better outcomes…that’s what we’re here for!
  • Get help when you need it. Every individual should have a Vial/File of Life prepared so that emergency medical providers can access the information they need to help you. You might also want to consider a personal emergency response system for your home. If you live in an assisted care facility, your care manager can help ensure your chart is updated and key contacts are listed so your family and providers are notified if there is a problem or changes. We can help you when there is an emergency, with on-call services for Aging Wisely clients. There is nothing worse than trying to navigate a medical emergency without help and support. We can be there throughout the emergency, hospitalization (and discharge planning) and rehabilitation to help guide the way and ensure you understand what is happening and your options.

Give us a call at 727-447-5845 for help in any of these areas! We welcome your comments about what information you would like to see about heart health (and if you have not already signed up for our monthly Wise Words newsletter, you can sign up right on our home page or contact us with a request or comment).

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2013’s Top Eldercare and Healthcare News Stories

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Aging Wisely’s team of patient advocates brings you the latest news and information relevant to caregiving, healthcare and disability care. Our weekly blog posts are designed to inform and answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get from families. We also send out a monthly “Wise Words” newsletter, and if you’d like to receive it you can contact us online with a request.

As we wrap up 2013, we thought we would share some of the top news stories we reviewed this year and their implications for you.

Healthcare Reform and Obamacare

Obamacare was one of the stories that clearly got a lot of press in every type of media outlet. A lot of the current/coming changes related to Obamacare are not directly related to most seniors, however. All the press about the changes did have one negative effect on some seniors, however, in that scammers used it to their advantage. They preyed on the confusion over Obamacare in order to obtain personal information or extract unnecessary fees from elders.

Seniors who are covered under Medicare are not affected by Obamacare mandate. There were various changes made to the Medicare program with the health reforms, such as the gradual closing of the Part D doughnut hole and expanding preventative care benefits. Medicare recipients do not have to choose new healthcare plans under the exchanges, as they will continue to be covered by Medicare. As usual, Medicare recipients have annual opportunities to make changes to plans and there likely will be some changes to the Medicare Advantage landscape as incentives/pay structure changes. To read more on this subject, check out “What to Expect from Medicare in 2014” and “The Aging Wisely Medicare 2014 Fact Sheet“.

On the other hand, Aging Wisely’s patient advocates work with many disabled, chronically or critically ill clients who are not currently covered under Medicare. Some of the Obamacare changes offer new options for these clients. You can get an overview of the changing healthcare landscape here and contact us if you need help navigating these issues.

Assisted Living Exposé Reveals Problems in the Senior Living Industry

PBS Frontline did a piece entitled “Life and Death in Assisted Living” which exposed information behind several lawsuits against Emeritus Senior Living. The piece examined the larger picture of regulation and consumer protections in this massive industry. As we know as advocates, there is good and bad care in any setting. These types of issues have been uncovered in hospitals, nursing homes, in-home care and all types of institutional care over the years. Much of the financial abuse and neglect that elders face is actually perpetrated by family members, but this special did uncover some issues within this industry that should not be ignored. Assisted living was virtually non-existent 30 years ago so this is still a relatively new industry adapting to a drastically changing clientele. The population in most assisted living facilities is now much older and sicker than originally envisioned.

In our article on this topic, we focused on what we think is most important to families about this story. Rather than simply instilling fear, we hope to provide concrete ideas of how you can better evaluate care options and advocate for your loved ones. As long time elder advocates, we provide some of our key advice on finding quality assisted living care and ensuring quality eldercare after moving in to assisted living.

The World’s Aging Population

Florida has been a unique place for our Aging Wisely team to work. Our demographics in Florida have been “ahead of the curve” with a large elder population well ahead of the much discussed Baby Boom/Age Wave. Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Florida lead the statistics in terms of elder populations among similar cities of their sizes. We also have a large demographic of people who have retired to Florida from other locations, often with family members living elsewhere. These types of demographics are becoming more widespread as the Baby Boomer generation ages and society becomes ever more mobile. On a larger scale, this phenomenon is international in nature. While developing nations may still have lower life expectancies and higher birth rates, many nations are facing an aging population and drastically lower birth rates as people marry later and have fewer children.

In the European Union, for example, life expectancy (which rose by eight years between 1960 and 2006) could continue to increase by a further five years between 2006 and 2050 and would thus result in a larger proportion of people surviving to the ages of 80 and 90. The average number of children per women stands at 1.5 whereas the replacement level is 2.1. Immigration is offsetting these lowered population numbers in many countries. Therefore we are looking at very different dynamics in terms of issues like pensions, the makeup of the working population and family caregiving.

Japan has the world’s highest percentage of population over age 65 and this occurred in the shortest time span (again related to both higher life expectancy and lower birth rates). China is a different case, where declining birth rates have been, at least in large part, caused by government policy (the “one child policy”). Of course, rapid economic/lifestyle improvements have impacted the other side of the equation, with greatly extended life expectancy. This has led to what is known as 4-2-1 conundrum, in which each (only) child has four grandparents and two parents to care for. Filial piety is a traditional value and many families live in multi-generational households, but migration and the one-child policy have put strains on this system of family care. China has been dealing with this in various ways, from a policy in which parents can sue children for not visiting to small subsidies for elders whose only child died or is disabled. Institutional and private care options are also beginning to develop, with home care companies providing in-home support, the first private assisted living facilities opening, and Buddhist temple-based nursing homes. There is also an interesting eldercare volunteer program being tested.

With globalization and shared information, nations should be able to learn from each other and determine the best options to care for their older citizens. The U.N. began looking at these issues in 1982. In 2002 the Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid led to the plan of action on ageing which “called for changes in attitudes, policies and practices at all levels to fulfill the enormous potential of ageing in the twenty-first century.  Its specific recommendations for action give priority to older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.”

We want to extend our wishes for a happy, healthy 2014 to all our clients and friends! We hope that 2014 will be a year of good news and progress toward active aging and improved quality of life for all. We encourage you to check back with us for the latest news and information and contact us any time we can help!

You can reach our advocacy team via online contact or by calling 727-447-5845. We’re here to help with your Florida elder and disability care questions, patient advocacy issues, Medicare and much more!

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Patient Advocacy Spotlight: End of Life Care

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Sally Abrahms at AARP is one of our favorite bloggers. She covers eldercare issues on her blog, often highlighting interesting programs and news related to aging and caregiving. Sally recently shared a post about a new study on end of life issues. Some of the big findings of this end-of-life views survey include:

  • 66 percent of respondents think a patient should be allowed to stop treatment and die under some circumstances.
  • 31 percent disagree, saying health professionals should do everything possible to save a patient’s life.
  • The “do everything” group has increased 9 percent since 2005 and 16 percent since 1990.

The group was fairly evenly divided on physician assisted suicide, with 47 percent in favor and 49 percent disapproving of laws to allow a doctor to prescribe lethal drugs to a terminally ill patient. The survey goes in to a lot of depth on various related topics, and shows the wider divides on these issues when respondents are broken down by ethnicity and religion.

Respondents also have different opinions when looking at what they would want personally, with preferences varying by hypothetical circumstances. The study shows for example, “57% say they would tell their doctors to stop treatment if they had a disease with no hope of improvement and were suffering a great deal of pain. And about half (52%) say they would ask their doctors to stop treatment if they had an incurable disease and were totally dependent on someone else for their care. But about a third of adults (35%) say they would tell their doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive – even in dire circumstances, such as having a disease with no hope of improvement and experiencing a great deal of pain.” The latter percentage has gone up, partly because more people elected to express an opinion on the issue (versus being undecided). At the same time, there’s a growing percentage that say people have a moral right to suicide (particularly when in a great deal of pain with no hope of improvement).

Obviously, these issues are very personal and potentially polarizing. A person’s background can have a big effect on his/her views on this issue, but the decisions are also greatly dependent on the circumstances. Perhaps the uptick in responses also shows that more people have thought about these issues and formed an opinion than in the past. This may be due to increased discussions, awareness and exposure (particularly as more people serve as caregivers, they see these issues played out with loved ones and may have the opportunity to form more crystallized views).

As Florida patient advocates, our team works with many clients facing chronic and terminal illnesses. Many of our clients come to us toward the end of their lives, while we work with others over a number of years throughout different stages of care and illness. This survey further brings to light some important points about end-of-life care and decisions. From this information and our patient advocacy experience, here are some take-away lessons on end of life care:

  • These decisions are very personal and often situation-dependent. Therefore, it is important to have continuous conversations about care issues as circumstances change. A patient advocate can help facilitate the conversation and get critical information from providers so that patients and families can make the most informed decision.
  • Advanced care planning and end-of-life care decisions are not a “once and done” issue. Completing and advance directive form, appointing a healthcare surrogate or saying you do/do not want certain measures in your living will are all only a small part of this process. Those who have cared for loved ones with chronic illness or served as patient advocates know this well. Multiple trips to the emergency room for small injuries or repeated pneumonia may lead to a discussion about continued treatment versus treating these issues as well as possible at home (or at the ALF or nursing home). When a different illness or injury comes up, this may lead to a different decision. When it comes to technologies, there may be times in a pattern of illness when a surgery or technology makes sense, weather for potential to extend life or for comfort, while at other times the same decision may not seem advisable. Treatment itself may change the process…such as for the cancer patient whose body is depleted by chemotherapy and thus not able to withstand the latest trial or the person who received radiation and is therefore not a good candidate for surgery to that area.
  • Understanding the circumstances, in quality of life terms, is the most important information for the patient and family to have. Patients need to understand prognosis…both likelihood of survival as well as what that survival will look like. What side effects are to be expected? What probable complications and long-term changes will occur? What help will the person likely need after treatment? There are often many variables to weigh. A professional patient advocate can often help you get these answers and break it down in to understandable terms (as well as review them with you as often as needed). A doctor’s office or hospital room with attending medical professionals is often the start of this conversation but should not be the end. The patient and family need time, when feasible, to make these tough decisions.
  • Practitioners need to take time to understand the patient/family perspective. This means having cultural awareness of different religious beliefs and cultural taboos which may be influencing both the conversation and the decisions. Fortunately, as patient advocates with social work training and a holistic viewpoint, this is an area where the Aging Wisely team shines. We understand the importance of assessment, both as a document and a process that continues. We know that it is important not only to know what diagnoses a person has, but their beliefs, their family situation, their mental health and emotional issues…and much more.

End-of-life decisions are part of a wider spectrum of care decisions that many patients and their caregivers will have to make. The conversations around these decisions are vital and good support from a professional patient advocate can facilitate the process. If your family needs help with patient advocacy…from advance care planning to navigating treatment and setting up a care plan through end of life/palliative care…give Aging Wisely’s award-winning patient advocates a call at 727-447-5845.

*Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Preparing for a Doctor’s Appointment

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Tips for Individuals and Caregivers

Make the most of your medical appointments by being prepared. Even if your doctor gives you time and attention, appointments are brief by nature and it can be overwhelming to ensure you cover the pertinent information and absorb what you are being told. Here are some Aging Wisely tips for being a good medical advocate for you or someone you love at those doctor’s appointments:

• Prepare some notes regarding: any recent symptoms or concerns (try to jot down information when you are experiencing issues, i.e. what it feels like, when it happens, what occurs, frequency and when you first noticed it).
• Prepare a list of top questions. Be realistic about what can be covered and if you have more extensive needs, you may want to forewarn the office staff when making the appointment that you have several questions or concerns so they can plan accordingly.
• Feel free to take notes. Tell the doctor (especially if you are the “third party”, not the patient), “I am going to take some notes so that I understand everything you are telling me and can make sure not to forget any of your instructions”. As patient advocates for many years, we can tell you that physicians are understanding and appreciative because they want patients (or those that are assisting the patient) to follow through properly.
• In those notes, indicate any follow up or instructions given so you have a checklist to follow. If anything is not clear, ask for clarification.
• Consider using an organizing system to manage medical records, history and tracking. An electronic/online system offers many advantages in consistency and access (read more in our post about personal health record systems). Aging Wisely uses a system called Caregiver’s Touch for our clients to ensure care continuity, which can be quickly accessed by caregivers online and via a mobile app.

Some other important considerations to ensure the best medical care and continuity for elders or anyone experiencing chronic illness or managing health issues:

• As a patient potentially facing a serious diagnosis, going through major testing or managing multiple or major conditions, always consider having an advocate along with you. It can be very emotional and having someone to focus on the practicalities and to be a sounding board is invaluable. As a family member, it might even help to have someone else along as you may also be too emotional upon hearing a diagnosis or prognosis to manage the questions and advocacy role.
• Review with your attorney to ensure you have the up-to-date legal documents that will allow a trusted person to handle your needs should you no longer be able (Healthcare Surrogate, Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for financial/practical matters).
• If you wish for your loved one to be able to get test results and other information to assist you in managing your care, ask the provider what paperwork you need to complete (most now have this built in to patient paperwork with an area you can sign allowing someone to have access and ensuring the office complies with patient privacy laws).
• Learn more about how professional patient advocates can help you and your family. If you are a caregiver at a distance from aging parents/loved ones, get peace of mind by hiring one of our professional geriatric care managers/patient advocates to attend appointments, advocate and communicate to family members.

CONTACT US TODAY to learn more about eldercare advice, patient advocacy and other ways we can help you in Aging Wisely.

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What is a Patient Advocate?

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A professional patient advocate is someone trained to help individuals (and their families) navigate the often complex healthcare system. Many family members and friends act as an advocate on a regular basis as a loved one faces a hospitalization, health crisis or chronic illness and treatment path. However, a professional advocate such as a care manager offers experience, training and in-depth knowledge of how to ensure the best care and pathway to good health and quality of life.

As stated by the Professional Patient Advocacy Institute, “The cost of healthcare increasingly is the responsibility of the individual consumer, which has made consumers more and more cognizant of the true cost of services and the value of traditional sources of care and information. Yet still today, the healthcare system is not set up like other commodities where comparisons can be made easily. To provide advice when faced with healthcare challenges, an emerging group of healthcare professionals known as patient advocates are positioned to assist consumers in making informed decisions while providing guidance, advice and direction in navigating the complex healthcare system.”

What are some of the ways a professional healthcare advocate helps?

*Providing a professional assessment and recommendations for resources, education and care plan options.
*Reviewing your chart and medical records to identify any concerns, questions and to help you and your family understand your health situation and options in lay terms.
*Accompanying a patient to appointments, treatment, ER visits for care continuity. Helping to formulate questions for providers and ensure good communication.
*Helping organize your medical information and create an online, personal health record.
*Assisting during key transition periods (such as hospital discharge, transfer to a care facility, or a switch in providers, where most problems occur) to ensure continuity and anticipate and avoid concerns.

When does someone use a professional patient advocate?

*When recently diagnosed with a chronic illness or acute problem–to locate good providers, evaluate options for treatments and handle the emotional and practical impacts of the diagnosis.
*During key transitions or health crises such as an Emergency Room (ER) visit, hospitalization, hospital discharge to home, inpatient rehabilitation or choosing a care facility.
*On an ongoing basis, especially when managing a chronic illness, multiple diagnoses or some form of dementia, to ensure continuity of care and be a liaison between providers, patient and family.
*To help in organizing records, putting together a care plan, creating an online personal medical record and to generally get a better handle on one’s medical situation and be proactive in managing chronic conditions.
*During end of life care, to support patient and family in decision making, emotional support and navigating options.

What are the benefits of a professional patient advocate?

*When you work with an independent advocate, such as our geriatric care managers, you get an independent assessment, someone who works for you and can ensure you get what you need.
*Expertise in the healthcare system (as well as eldercare, social services and related support services).
*Professional training and specialized expertise in the areas you need–someone who can quickly point you to resources and has knowledge of some of the issues you might not even anticipate.
*Emotional support for you and your family. Health crises can be emotional and it can be difficult to manage the practicalities and make clear decisions when facing these emotions. A professional advocate is your sounding board.

Who are professional patient advocates?

Patient advocates come from a variety of backgrounds within the medical world. Some may work for insurance companies, employers or healthcare systems or providers. Others, like our Aging Wisely care managers, work directly for the individual and family–objectively, independently–navigating a range of healthcare systems and providers and providing patients with continuity.

Our Florida geriatric care managers not only have strong professional backgrounds (both academic and experiential) in social work, gerontology, and case management, but continue to pursue specialized training areas. Our team offers experts in areas such as end of life care, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s/dementia, transitions to care facilities and much more. To read more about our professional care management and patient advocacy staff, we invite you to review our team section.

Contact us today so we can answer all your questions about patient advocacy and to find out how we can help if you or a loved one is facing chronic illness, a healthcare crisis, or just want to be assured the best quality of care.

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Mission Statement

Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.