Coloring Outside the Lines

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When people ask you what you do for a living, what do you – as an independent health / patient advocate, or care manager — reply to them?

It would be simple to say “I am an advocate” which, then, may require further explanation. That further explanation would likely include examples of the kinds of work you do (I attend doctor appointments with seniors. Or, I manage medical bills and negotiate them when they are too high. Or I help people figure out what their own choices are for treatments… or…. )

That further explanation is always valuable, especially if the person asks you additional questions – meaning you have engaged them. And they often do!  They also tend to launch into stories on their own, beginning with “Where were you when….?” and then relate some horrible situation they or their loved one found themselves in. At that point you know they understand.

But this week, during a conversation with a gentleman who wants to jump into “our” world, I found myself telling him…

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Raise Your Dues So We Can Turn the Titanic?

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Heard on the street (and on the phone, and during and in-person conversation, and by text….)

IFs and THENs:

If [the healthcare system] was just ______, then ______ !

You’ll have your own variations to fill in there, like:

  • If healthcare was less expensive, then more people could get care!
  • If doctors would spend more time with me, then I could get my questions answered!
  • If insurance would just cover it, then my client could get the treatment she needs!
  • If there were more specialists to cover my ailment, then I wouldn’t have to wait so long for an appointment!

…. and the list goes on and on.

In the 15 years I’ve been working in patient empowerment and advocacy, I have been asked hundreds of times to work on fixing those kinds of problems. I’ve been invited to Washington, DC. I’ve been asked to sit on committees, I’ve been hired as a consultant…

However!

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What Biases Don’t YOU Recognize?

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As advocates, we all quickly become familiar with, and embrace, and share with clients, our Code of Ethics.*

Of course, there are many tenets to the code, but primary among them is the very specific statement and belief that while acting as a professional patient advocate, we will never make decisions for our clients. We work to help them make their own decisions, we respect the decisions they make, and we assist them to be sure they are carried out.

I’m sure, as you read that statement, you are nodding your head in agreement. YOU would never violate that tenet, would you?  You are 100% committed to making sure your clients are making all their own decisions, even in difficult times.

And yet…

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Less Becomes More: Where Subtraction Has Positive Results

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I spent the weekend gardening. It’s spring, after all.

Since my last assault on my garden last Fall, many plants got leggy, or died, or just needed rehab of some sort. Unlike many of my neighbors (and maybe you, too!) what I love most about gardening is finishing it. It feels so good when it stops! 🙂

What was unique about my weekend gardening is an observation I made; a good metaphor to share with you, in hopes of providing some inspiration on a service you can provide to your clients. (Yes, this is what happens when I’m pulling weeds. I get thinking about other, more important things!)

No – I don’t expect you to do your clients’ gardening! But follow along with me and it will make sense.

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Simon and Garfunkel – an Anthem to Advocacy

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OK, yes, I’m dating myself…  One of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs is Bridge Over Troubled Water. I’ve been humming it repeatedly over the last few weeks, and last week, we let the advocacy world know why.

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

The lyrics – are like an anthem about advocacy, aren’t they?  The idea that one person can help another person by creating a bridge over the problems, to make the path to the other side smoother. It’s the work advocates do every day, proudly, passionately, and most often with incredibly positive results.

Beyond the lyrics, the metaphorical bridge goes even further, which is what has prompted the song to run through my head most recently.

So – what happened last week?

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