A Voice When You Don’t Have One

Have you been acutely or chronically ill?  During my own past illnesses or injuries I realize that while I’ve been “legally” able to speak for myself I haven’t always had the strength to question the medical provider telling me diagnoses and options or even to clearly think over all my options.

There are times in our lives when we need to either be an advocate for a friend or family member or have someone speak up for us.  And sometimes these times are obvious such as when we are hospitalized.  Sometimes these emergencies happen so suddenly we don’t have time to call.

We’ve all heard or experienced the “horror stories” that can occur when medical staff is too busy or restricted by their paperwork to provide the care we need.  We need an advocate for those times.  We need an advocate when we’re in crisis and hearing “bad” news to help us think through what needs to be done.

I suggest that each of us consider whom we want to be advocates for us and to let those “chosen” know in advance.  There are legal forms such as health care agent paperwork that we each should have completed and given copies to our “designed” agents.   I’ve just completed a new version of mine.  Is yours current?  (Just asking!)

And, there is another step to take.  Most of us have cell phones.   If you look under “contacts,” search for ICE.   ICE stands for “in case of emergency” and is the place to provide names and contact information for the persons who need to be notified.  I have 3 designees listed under ICE.

No one ever wants to be without a spokesperson for those unforeseen times during which we cannot speak up for ourselves.  Both ICE and health care agent paperwork provide peace of mind for those times. Seabury’s Care Managers program can help families set up ICE and health care paperwork, as well as, act as advocates for seniors.

Christine Bitzer, LICSW, is the Assistant Director of Seabury Resources for Aging’s Care Management program. Care managers work with older adults on an individual basis to advise them on a variety of issues and services; such as home care, transportation, medical/legal assistance and housing. Families are put at ease having a knowledgeable guide to provide recommendations and resources to meet their unique needs. This expertise can save families money and reduce stress and time away from work. Christine can be reached at (202) 364-9663 or email her at CBitzer@seaburyresources.org

Featured Image: Flickr @Erica

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