Seven Pro-Tips for Family Advocates

 In Advocacy, Health Care, Patient Education

Family advocates are the unrecognized heroes in countless American families. When a parent or loved one falls ill or has an accident, it’s often a child or family member who must step up to be their primary caregiver. It’s natural for our society to accept this, as it is unfortunately all too common. Dig deeper however, and it’s painfully obvious that the majority of these caregivers are unprepared and inexperienced with the healthcare system. Add kids, a career and basic necessities of life, and caregiving essentially turns into a second job when dealing with insurance, medications, doctors’ visits and other needs in their spare time.

Two struggles we see over and over:

  1. The Adult-Child Caregiver, who faces the complications of both caring for their parent(s) while also managing their own schedule and raising their family and
  2. The Crisis Manager, who faces a loved one in a medical emergency, thrown into emotional and potential choas with long term effects ranging from insurance claims to hospital bills, rehabilitatoin and potential life-long chronic conditions.

Pro-Tips to Alleviate These Struggles

#1 – Be Prepared

If you’re not actively taking care of a loved one — or even if you are — it’s never too early to start a conversation for the “what ifs” in life.

Exploring what a parent or spouse desires and expects as they age in terms of care, living arrangements, quality of life and last wishes can only help both of you. Having a Living Will and Medical Powers of Attorney in place before something goes wrong ensures your loved one’s wishes will be followed when an issue arises.

#2 – Stay Organized

Managing medical bills (even your own!) means a myriad of messy and confusing paperwork. Here’s where a lot of people make mistakes: they quickly write a note to themselves on the top of a loved one’s bill or EOB (Explanation of Benefits) and then… can’t remember what it means a short two months later.

Keep your loved one’s paperwork in one location, with plenty of extra paper for recording detailed notes. Even better: an electronic record is searchable when you need to go back and find something and is easier to share with doctors if the situation calls for it.

#3 – Double-Check & Cross Reference Records

Set aside time to review your loved one’s medical paperwork and cross-reference bills to make sure you’re paying them on time and not being double-billed or overcharged. Physicians offices and hospitals can sometimes be aggressive when it comes to follow-up on outstanding bills, including sending them to collections. Staying on top of paperwork ensures you’ll avoid collections, which minimizes bargaining power and can negatively impact your loved one’s credit scores.

#4 – Know Your Insurance Policy

It’s important to know what’s covered under your loved one’s insurance policy. At a minimum, you should know the deductible limit, when the policy renews, and copayments for regular and specialist visits. Additionally, in the fine print of most insurance policies, you’ll find a time limitation for any appeals. Make sure you know how long you have to question any benefit denials.

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#5 – Archive Doctor’s Care Reports

Thanks to electronic medical records, after every doctor’s visit, your loved one will be issued a written summary of the appointment, including any findings, new medications, requested tests and issued appointments.

If you live far away, you can usually get a copy of this document sent to you electronically, or access to it through a patient portal.

Insider tip! In accordance with HIPAA laws, unless you have Medical Powers of Attorney, your loved one must express written permission for you to have access to this information. And (thanks to technology!) it can sometimes take up to a week for approval to be granted “into the system.” So, be sure to make the request as early as possible.

#6 – Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to ask for a more detailed explanation or to ask for a follow-up to issues related to how many bills you should expect. You have every right to this information on behalf of your loved one, explained in a way you can understand.

Insider tip! As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It’s okay to be clear in your requests, but don’t forget to be respectful and kind when you do it.

#7 – Realize When You Need Help

It’s okay to ask for help. Again, it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes, all the details and paperwork can get in the way of a simple truth: one person can’t do it all. If you have a choice, spend your precious time with your loved one, enjoying each other’s company and let someone else help with the administrative aspects.

About Amazing Healthcare Consultants

Founded in 2011 by Dr. Carol DeVore and Rachel Decena, Amazing Healthcare Consultants provides clear sightlines into your loved one’s healthcare through medical and insurance advocacy. Making confident and educated healthcare decisions is the ultimate peace of mind, and as an independent agency, Amazing Healthcare Consultants can truly put the patient first and fight for the best care possible.

Carol Gordon DeVore, M.D.

Carol Gordon DeVore, M.D.

Founder & Patient Advocate at Amazing Healthcare Consultants
Twenty nine years as a physician have brought me great personal and professional satisfaction, but a new passion has driven me to change directions within the healthcare system. I'm acutely aware of the confusion and frustration that patients face as they navigate the healthcare "maze" and look forward to helping patients in many new ways as a private healthcare advocate.
Carol Gordon DeVore, M.D.

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