The Family Caregiver as a Healthcare Advocate

-by Sherry Taylor-Englund

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One very important way family caregivers can be supportive of a loved one faced with healthcare issues is by being a healthcare advocate.

Family Caregiver as Healthcare AdvocateRecently, during a community presentation in San Diego, I had gentlemen raise his hand and state, “My mother was declining due to her lung cancer and I suggested hospice with her physician a month prior to her death. I am grateful that my mother received the hospice care she needed, but shouldn’t her doctor have suggested hospice to us rather than the other way around?”

His question released an avalanche of stories from others in the audience – all expressing similar experiences.

Another woman spoke with remorse, “My husband died a few years ago. Sometimes I wonder if there was more that could have been done.”

These stories remind us that a healthcare advocate is a critical component of the healthcare team. Since a family caregiver is generally a person on the “inside,” they are in a better position to know the needs and wishes of the  loved one they are caring for. As a family caregiver, you are in a great position to be a healthcare advocate. While a family caregiver may not have a medical or healthcare background, his or her day-to-day experiences with a loved one can provide critical information. Your healthcare professional may rely on this information in order to make the best medical decisions.

Keep in mind that being a healthcare advocate is not an adversarial position. It doesn’t necessarily mean rushing out and getting a second opinion on every matter and then confronting your healthcare professional with your findings. It means you are a team player on the healthcare team.

Some people don’t think of themselves as healthcare advocates because they are not loud and pushy, or feel that they don’t know enough about a specific medical condition. But in fact, the best advocates are quiet forces who support mostly by their steadfast presence and perhaps asking the questions that their loved one/patient cannot ask for themselves. Being a healthcare advocate for your loved one can be one of the best and lasting gifts that you can give them.

Sherry Taylor-Englund has worked in the field of hospice since 2000. She began her career as a licensed vocational nurse in 1988 and currently conducts speaking engagements on end-of-life care topics.


7 Comments on "The Family Caregiver as a Healthcare Advocate"

  1. Melissa says:

    I found as my parents got older, I needed to check on their medications. Sometimes they didn’t know why they were taking a certain medication, so I would check with the doctor and explain it to them.

  2. Xahnia says:

    Thank you so much for this very valuable article.

    Hospice is helpful in providing care for your loved one and also is a wonderful support network for Family Caregivers. Even if your loved one wishes to pass away at home, Family Caregivers should contact their local hospice as soon as necessary for valuable information to help with the end of life care of your loved one. Hospice and the information they can provide for family members is a gift worth looking into.

    Family Caregiver Advocate – Xahnia @

  3. Sherry says:

    Thank you for comment. Yes, you stated it well, “hospice is a gift for family members”

  4. cevon says:

    Thank you for a great post.

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  1. [...] – but recent studies show that roughly more than 66 Million people in the United States are family caregivers. Caring for aging parents can be a labor of love, but also a challenging role reversal for many who [...]

  2. [...] of health care goals can be greatly enhanced by communication between doctor and patient. Even for family caregivers who act as the health care advocate for an aging parent or loved one can benefit from understanding [...]

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