Letter: How to become your own health care advocate

Graphic by Lori Deaton

If you have an illness that requires long-term care, be prepared to be your own advocate. Below are suggestions that might help you improve communication with your care providers and improve the quality of your care.

• Use your support system as needed; do not become overwhelmed.

• Research your diagnosis and treatment options.

• Take advantage of resources and people who may be able to assist. For example, organizations such as the American Cancer Society have extensive information available online or in pamphlets. A charge nurse or social worker may be able to assist if you are having trouble with coordination of care.

• Social service agencies are skilled at identifying available resources and helping you tap into these resources. For example, they can assist with medical issues and disability applications. They are generally knowledgeable about federal and state guidelines.

• It is very beneficial for you, your loved ones and your medical care team if you have 
“an advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, medical directive or advance decision, [which] is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. In the U.S., it has a legal status in itself, whereas in some countries, it is legally persuasive without being a legal document.” [Source:] http://avl.mx/3rl.

• Palliative care is offered through hospitals and medical offices for individuals dealing with long-term disease or chronic illness. The medical specialists will help ease your suffering by navigating your health care choices. Most insurance companies and Medicare will pay for palliative care. You may have your palliative care plans filed in your electronic medical records. [More info:] http://avl.mx/3rm.

• In most states [including North Carolina], you can call United Way’s 211 number [dial 2-1-1 or visit NC211.org]. They will help increase your awareness of available resources throughout the state.

• For chronic pain, see a pain-management specialist.

• To avoid confusion, document issues using electronic communications with your care providers. Keep your emotions out of any correspondence and stay on point.

• Understand your medications. Know the benefits and the side effects so that you can make informed decisions about medication options that are right for you.

• If your prescriptions are prohibitively expensive, your physician may work with the pharmaceutical company and provide you free or lower-cost prescriptions.

• Consider alternative care such as homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, diet and exercise programs. Any of these choices would be outstanding. [More info:] http://avl.mx/3rn.

• If you have Medicare, the staff will help you with an insurance policy that will best meet your medical and financial needs. Medicare will do conference calls with you and your prescription drug carrier and negotiate your prescription obstacles. For example, my insurance company was refusing to cover the total number a medicines I needed for the month. Medicare worked with me to straighten out this problem.

All of the above suggestions have worked well for me over the years. I strongly encourage you to become knowledgeable about your health so that you are in a position to participate in the decision-making process. Knowledge allows one to self-advocate.

— Anne Catherine Gibbons


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Letter: How to become your own health care advocate

  1. Samantha

    These suggestions can definitely help you improve communication with your care providers and at the same time improve the quality of care. It’s best to be ready for this need rather than become a burden to your loved ones later on or find solutions when it’s already too late.

    In addition to these tips, I think it would also be helpful if you let your loved ones know beforehand if you have long-term care insurance, which helps pay for long term care services. It is defined by ALTCP.org and AARP.org as an insurance product that covers different types of long term care facilities, gives you peace of mind and protects your loved ones from the high cost of care. In this way, they can file for claims right away and they will be spared from covering your expensive care costs.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.