Advice & Information

Transitioning from Caregiver to Advocate

As a caregiver, you always had your parent’s best interests at heart – whether you were providing care, managing finances, scheduling appointments, preparing meals, cleaning the house, or simply keeping your parent company.

That hasn’t changed, even if your parent is now receiving care at a senior living community or from a home aide. As you support and nurture your parent in this new setting, it’s time to embrace your role as an advocate. Becoming an advocate means championing your parent’s wishes for senior living and healthcare – especially if he/she is no longer able to.

To guide you through the transition from caregiver to advocate, check out our tips for becoming a powerful advocate for your parent below.

What Does It Mean to Be an Advocate?

The role of an advocate is to help your parent understand the resources and options available, and carry out their wishes accordingly. The ultimate goal is to get the best possible care that aligns with their vision.

What Are Your New Responsibilities as an Advocate?

As you transition into your new role, you may find yourself responsible for key aspects of your parent’s care management. Often this involves:

  • Nurturing your parent during the care transition. First of all, it’s important to ensure your parent has an easy transition to the new care setting. Be sure to check in often and listen to your parent’s concerns as they come up.
  • Managing health info. You should take the lead on managing care plans and health matters. Stay informed about your parent’s diagnoses, treatments, medications, etc. and be present at appointments.
  • Keeping financial information in order. Store key records, track expenses, assets, and debts, and uphold your parent’s financial wishes.
  • Organizing all paperwork. This includes vital records such as a power of attorney, will, advanced health care directive, DNR order, etc.
  • Planning for end-of-life and more. Make a plan for end-of-life with your parent, including desired healthcare treatments and funeral services.

What Caregiver Responsibilities Should You Let Go Of?

Now that you’re no longer acting as a caregiver, it’s time to let go of certain responsibilities related to your parent’s daily care plan. You should no longer be involved in providing for any physical needs, such as:

  • Assisting with daily tasks
  • Monitoring medications
  • Handling mobility/transportation
  • Housekeeping and meals, etc.

However, as an advocate, you should still communicate regularly with your parent and provide companionship. Since you help manage your parent’s healthcare needs, it’s a good idea to be present at doctor’s appointments, too.

Tips for Becoming a Powerful Advocate for Your Parent

1. Make the Mental Shift

Becoming an advocate is a very different role from caregiving, though it’s just as rewarding. Try to make the mental shift from providing care to managing it. If you’re having trouble adjusting, clarify what your responsibilities are now, so you can identify when you’re defaulting to your old role.

2. Be the Expert on Your Parent’s Wishes

Though doctors, care providers, and communities are key players in your parent’s life, you’re the expert on your parent’s wishes. All aspects of your parent’s care should be managed through your deep understanding of your parent’s vision. Speak up when you feel care isn’t aligning with that vision.

3. Do Research & Read the Fine Print

Advocacy starts with understanding your parent’s health conditions, finances, and legal matters. Do research so that you feel prepared to meet with your parent’s doctors and care providers, and read any fine print that could impact your parent’s care.

4. Be Tenacious & Ask Questions

The healthcare system can be overwhelming at times. Don’t be afraid to insist, ask questions, and look for alternatives. Sometimes the right care solution for your parent isn’t the first one presented to you.

5. Play Detective 

When your parent can no longer communicate needs, it’s up to you to stay on top of them. Try to observe and track your parent’s well-being, moods, needs, abilities, appearance, and more.

Catching even small differences can help you advocate for changes in care. You can even reach out to your parent’s care providers to set up video calls with your parent and ask health aides to report their observations to you, as well.

6. Get the Paperwork in Order

There’s a massive amount of paperwork involved with managing your parent’s care. Be sure to have digital copies of all important documents, including power of attorney, will, advanced health care directive, DNR order, etc. Don’t forget about other logistics either, such as prescription instructions or nutritional guidelines.

7. Build Strong Relationships With Your Parent’s Care Providers

You can be a better advocate if you have on-the-ground knowledge of your parent’s daily living. By building a strong relationship with your parent’s care providers, you can work closely with them to handle any concerns. A great relationship starts with communicating clearly and staying respectful, even when you’re frustrated about something.

8. Stay Active in Your Parent’s Life

The best way to manage your parent’s care is to visit and communicate often. Stay active in your parent’s life so that you have an insider’s look into their experiences, concerns, and needs. Even if your parent can no longer express needs directly, you can witness changes in your parent’s well-being firsthand.

9. Know Your Resources & Get Help When You Need It

Becoming an advocate means knowing the resources and options out there. To get you started, here are some top resources and organizations to reference when advocacy questions or issues come up:

You can also reach out to your parent’s doctor or care provider to get specific resources related to your parent’s health condition or needs.

10. Trust Your Gut

Ultimately, the care decisions you make for your parent can be difficult. When you’re unsure of how to act, trust your gut feeling about what your parent would have wanted. Often, this instinct can guide you to the right course of action.

The Rewards of Becoming an Advocate

Becoming an advocate for your aging parent may be difficult, but it’s incredibly valuable. Your role as an advocate turns your parent’s senior living vision into reality so that he/she gets the right care. By following these tips above, you’ll be better prepared to overcome challenges with compassion and have peace of mind that your parent is getting the best possible senior living experience.

What other questions do you have about becoming an advocate? Our team is always here to help. Feel free to contact us online to talk more about your parent’s care team and how to keep in touch with them.