How to Pace Advocating for Your Senior Parent
If you are a primary caregiver for your aging parent, you have many tasks to tend to on behalf of your mother or father. One of them is to be an advocate for your parent. For example, you likely need to advocate for your parent regarding medical issues. Your parent may be considering moving to an assisted living community, which will present another scenario in which you may need to advocate for your parent when seeking the best facility for his or her needs, goals, and objectives.
Advocating for your aging mother or father means acting or speaking on his or her behalf. With that said, you need to be aware of how to pace your parental advocacy. You need to pay heed as to how you should pace the manner in which you advocate for your parent. In this regard, there are three points that we discuss in this article:
- Accelerating your parental advocacy
- Slowing down to empower your parent
- Stopping and knowing when enough is enough
Accelerating Your Parental Advocacy
Accelerating how you advocate for your aging parent is appropriate when there is a safety concern. Accelerated advocacy becomes crucial when a quick decision must be made regarding substantive or material matters.
Accelerating the pace of advocacy for an aging parent typically occurs in a situation with some type of health issue. In this type of scenario, your mother or father may not be in an ideal position to advocate for his or herself. Your involvement in the decision-making process may be crucial.
There may be situations where your parent cannot make medical or healthcare decisions on his or her own. For example, your parent may have designated you as his or her agent to make medical decisions when he or she cannot under a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
There can also be situations where your parent may be alert and able to make medical decisions but needs support and assistance. In such a setting, your advocacy comes in the form of taking such steps as making sure your parent is provided the necessary information to make an educated decision regarding healthcare and medical matters.
Slowing Down to Empower Your Parent
Slowing down is important when you advocate for your parent, but you must consider his or her feelings and sense of self. There are situations in which you risk going too far and might make your mother or father feel helpless or hopeless.
If your parent remains mentally competent and capable of making decisions independently but needs someone to support those decisions, you should not step in your parent’s shoes when advocating. In other words, you need to support your parent regarding matters like medical or financial issues but not block them from the decision-making process.
This is an example of how slowing down how you advocate can be helpful to you. Imagine a situation where your parent needs to make decisions regarding a healthcare issue. When the need to slow down the manner of advocating exists, you can privately discuss your parent’s desires regarding that medical matter. Your parent can express his or her position regarding that issue directly with you.
Armed with that information, you can join your parent in meeting with his or her doctor. You can encourage your parent to take the lead in explaining his or her desires directly to the doctor. You can be available during the meeting to give your parents moral support. You can also assist your parent in making any point or points he or she may ask you to express in support of what he or she is saying and attempting to convey to a healthcare provider.
Stopping and Knowing When Enough is Enough
There are limits to advocating for your parent, particularly in healthcare, medical care, and treatment. When you are in a caregiving role for your parent that includes advocacy, you need to be able to understand when a decision needs to be made to stop medical care, treatment, and intervention.
In reality, making the decision to stop medical treatment for a parent is a form of advocacy. Ideally, your parent has done preplanning, he or she should have created what often is known as an advanced directive. An advanced directive sets forth limitations on medical care and treatment when specific steps would only be designed to prolong his or her life. These are known as extraordinary measures.
Additionally, if your parent has done preplanning, he or she has executed a durable power of attorney for healthcare. Through this instrument, you are put in the position to advocate for parents in ensuring their desires regarding when medical treatment needs to end. In other words, advocacy takes the form of knowing when to stop or knowing when enough is enough when it comes to a matter like extraordinary medical care and treatment.
In summary, the seniors’ advocacy organization AARP provides resources to assist adult children in serving as advocates for their aging parents. To that end, the AARP addresses the subject of advocacy:
As family caregivers, we play many roles: scheduler, money manager, house cleaner, health aide, nurse, navigator, nurturer, and more. Perhaps the most important role, though, is to advocate, as we ensure the best life possible for our loved ones when they are vulnerable.
That includes understanding their wishes for care and quality of life and making sure those wishes are respected. It means helping them manage financial and legal matters. And it means making sure they receive appropriate services and treatments of the highest quality when they need them. We are their voices when they are unable to advocate for themselves.