“One of the difficulties we face in our line of work is when dealing with people who don’t know who to choose to be their advocate. An advocate is someone who can speak on behalf of you and accompany you during your health care journey,” said Teck Hin Director, Tay Soon Pheng.
There are many elderly people in Singapore who do not have a life partner nor children. In difficult times, these are precisely the kind of people who needs to have a health care advocate the most. Even if you already have one, some people may still want to hire a health care professional as advocate because they are able to provide a greater range of assistance through their expertise.
What your health care advocate can do for you
Your health advocates, especially if they are trained professionals, can:
- Accompany you to medical appointments and stay by your bedside
- Help you learn more about your medical condition and treatment options
- Review your prescriptions and medications to prevent conflicts
- Help you make difficult medical decisions
- File insurance claims and dispute denials
- Manage or reduce your hospital bills
- Help you develop your end-of-life planning like wills or other advance directives
- Get legal assistance in case of a medical error
- Help your family to agree on difficult decisions that need to be made
Choosing your personal health care advocate
A good health advocate is someone who knows you well. They can be your relative, a trusted friend, co-worker, or even hired professional. They should be calm, pay attention to details, and comfortable asking questions. More importantly, they must be discreet and care for you.
According to Director Tay, “It doesn’t have to be permanent. Choosing a different person as your health care advocate is perfectly fine as your condition changes and someone else can fill in this role.”
When selecting an advocate, it’s best to:
- Clearly explains your concerns and the kind of help you need from them.
- Provide details of your medical history. You can even provide access to your electronic health record so they can refer to your test results.
- Give your health care team the permission to share information about you with your advocate.
- Share your advocate’s contact information to your health care team, and vice versa.
You should also have a continuing dialogue if they:
- Are able to listen well and take notes during appointment.
- Can keep your information private, and not discuss it at social or family events.
- Will be available and willing to drive you around when you need them.
- Understand your wishes and treatment goals, and respect them even if they or others disagree.
The answers you receive to the above questions will help you determine whether the person you are entrusting yourself to can be relied upon in difficult times.