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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Assessing Value: The Cost of Meat and Potatoes

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An Open Letter to an Advocate Who Questions Her APHA Membership

Received last week from Esther (not her real name):

If you would please clarify a few things I’d really appreciate it.It’s time for my PACE membership to renew and I am trying to decide whether to spend that money.

I want to have my name listed in your directory in the future, but your Premium membership is quite out of my budget. . Do you not offer beginner discounts?

Secondly, I currently am an unemployed family caregiver and have no income. A basic renewal at $49, which is more in my budget, is only for 6 months time, why not a full year? And it really lacks access to the meat and potatoes of your site which would most benefit me starting out in this line of service.

So as you may have gathered, I’m at a crossroads for renewing at this point in time. I’m trying to understand the real value in APHA membership for me. Perhaps you have other financial options for people in my situation?

I do look forward to hearing from you.

My reply to Esther:

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