Figuring Out Caregiving Protections

Long View: Advocating for Our Elders

When I was a youngster, I remember having a hard time paying attention to anything for very long. Thankfully, that’s all behind me now, but sometimes these childhood lapses made it appear like I was misbehaving or being disobedient. That was not the case of course.

For instance, I had my own ideas of when I should be doing chores, and it didn’t always match what my parents had in mind. I’m sure I presented my folks with quite a challenge. Looking back, I realize they were always right, and they had insights I couldn’t have known as a child.

It’s interesting to compare this childhood relationship with the relationships of adult caregivers and their parents or older family members. Being supportive and resourceful and providing suggestions are all part of the deal, but sometimes it’s hard to remember these are relationships between adults and not between parents and children. Even the best suggestion isn’t going to be received well if it doesn’t coincide with the older person’s wants and needs. Of course there will be disagreements, but that’s to be expected.

At Health Alliance Medicare, we have many members who have signed an appointment of representative form, which allows a child or other caregiver to speak on their behalf with their health insurance. We know that acting for a loved one can be a challenging position to be in, but we must have this formal legal agreement before our customer service reps can share the member’s claims information and other confidential information.

Another kind of protection is the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which works to protect, defend, and advocate for residents of long-term care facilities. One of its duties is to investigate concerns brought forward from anyone on behalf of the resident.

Amanda Hyde is the planning & grants manager at the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging, the sponsor that houses this program. She said, “The Ombudsman Program at ECIAAA is focused on advocating for resident rights. These rights include being fully informed on all aspects, including cost and even changes in rooms or roommates. Residents have the right to complain, participate in one’s own care, the right to confidentiality, the right to dignity, respect, and freedom, including the right to self-determination, and even making what others may deem as bad choices.”

There are many levels of caregiving, and I know it can be stressful. Differences of opinions are bound to happen. Although our loved ones aren’t always going to agree with us, I am sure it’s comforting for them to know that our care and support isn’t based on their obedience.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

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