Families Need You: A Thanksgiving Opportunity

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Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season are right around the corner. Smart health and patient advocates and care managers can find this season to be a golden opportunity to expand their reach in many positive ways.

The holidays are family times. Generations come together. Inevitably someone is facing a health and/or health system challenge.  Aunt Joan has a new cancer diagnosis and hasn’t even considered a second opinion.  Dad needs help sorting out his meds, while daughter Francine questions about whether he’s taking the right drugs at the right times, or whether the prescriptions he’s taking are causing some new symptoms. Cousin Jack is drowning in medical debt; he has no idea know how to fight a denied claim, or choose the right health insurance plan.  Uncle Victor, age 78, doesn’t have a DNR or a will because he doesn’t understand their importance.

These are the times family members begin to worry – and wonder who can help out.

The answer is YOU – a friend, a neighbor, a fellow church or temple congregant.  YOU can help them. They probably just don’t know that.

There are a few ways you can quite simply, and gently let them know that you are available should the need arise.  Here are some ideas for getting the word out:

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Political Controversy: We Are Being Tested Once Again

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I’m a political being and a news junkie. Can’t help it. It’s in my blood – literally – because both my father and grandfather (Dad’s father) were journalists, both avidly interested in politics. In fact, Grampa’s beat was Congress for Gannett Press in Washington, DC. (Reginald F. Torrey)

See? I come by it naturally.

Which is why the news of last week, the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s actions, is painful to me.

Now – do NOT get me wrong.  It’s not painful because I do, or do not, disagree with it! That’s not it at all.

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Self-Centered and Unbusinesslike

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Suppose I go to my favorite pizza shop and this conversation takes place:

Me: I would like a pepperoni pizza with black olives, onions, and extra cheese.

Johnny the Pizza Guy:  Sure! I’d be happy to help you with this pizza. But first let me tell you all about my pizza experiences – the reason I like to make pizzas. When I was little, we went to my grandmother’s house for dinner every Wednesday. My grandmother always made meatloaf. She made meatloaf with ground beef and always made gravy and mashed potatoes to go with it. It tasted good. It was filling. Then one Wednesday after eating dinner at Grandma’s (and realizing that it didn’t quite taste the same) my brother got really sick and started to throw up. Then the rest of us started to get sick, too. My mother was worried, so she took us to the ER, and sure enough – Grandma’s meatloaf, which had been tried and true and never changed… Well. She had made it with pork this time, the pork hadn’t cooked through, and we all got food poisoning. So now I make pizza.

Me: Seriously? I come in here to order a pizza and I have to listen to that story? Forget it. I don’t want your pizza anymore.

Now, of course, not only will I not get my pizza, but I have to figure out what to do next, and make all new arrangements for dinner!

I know. You think I’ve really lost it now, but bear with me to see how this applies to you, as an independent advocate.

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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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