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WHAT IS AN INDEPENDENT HEALTH ADVOCATE?

An independent health advocate is a professional who helps people navigate through the healthcare system. An advocate ensures that the client remains at the center of the treatment process: informed, empowered, and exercising self-determination. I represent only my clients, not their physicians, hospitals, or other institutions. I work with you and your healthcare providers to achieve the best possible outcomes, according to your needs, goals, and values.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PATIENT ADVOCATE AND A HEALTH ADVOCATE?

No, the terms are used interchangeably. I see my clients as people, not patients. I don’t define clients by their illness.

HOW WILL MY HEALTH ADVOCATE WORK WITH MY PHYSICIANS OR HOSPITAL?

I am a collaborator who works closely to advise, educate, and provide support to you, your loved ones, and other members of your healthcare and life-planning team, which includes you, your family and/or friends, physicians, pharmacists, dentist, attorneys, financial planner, certified public accountant, trustee, and fiduciary.

WHERE WILL WE MEET?

I will meet with you where you are most comfortable—your home, office, hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, doctor’s office, or other place of your choice. If you prefer or if you live outside of the Bay Area and you do not want me to travel to you, we can meet via telephone or videoconference using Skype.

WILL MY HEALTH ADVOCATE MAKE DECISIONS FOR ME?

No. However, I will guide and support you in making informed decisions based on your and/or your loved ones’ wishes, needs, goals, and values.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AN ADVANCE CARE DIRECTIVE, LIVING WILL, DNR ORDER, AND A POLST?

An advance care directive is a legal document that allows you to specify the type of care you wish to receive if you should no longer be able to make decisions for yourself due to illness or incapacity. Forms in wide use in California allow you also to nominate an agent for healthcare decision making or healthcare proxy, who will make decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself. A living will is another name for an advance care directive.

A DNR (do not resuscitate) order is a legal order written either in the hospital or on a legal form, such as an advance care directive, to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) if your heart were to stop or you stopped breathing. A DNR order instructs the medical team taking care of you to respect your wishes.

A POLST (Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment) is a form printed on bright pink paper that is completed by seriously-ill people to allow them to take more control over their end-of-life care, including medical treatment, extraordinary measures, and CPR. Signed by both you and your doctor, a POLST can prevent unwanted or ineffective treatments.

Completing these forms will allow you to take control over the care you receive and indicate the care you do not want to receive if the time comes when you are unable to specify your wishes.

HOW DO I CHOOSE A HEALTH ADVOCATE?

I would advise that you start by asking yourself what services you or a loved one need right now. If you don’t know, ask the health advocate to help you determine the services from which you could benefit. Inquire about the advocate’s credentials, background, and experience working with clients in a situation like yours. Find out whether the advocate is available on an emergency basis, by appointment only, or during specific hours.

Some health advocates are generalists. Others specialize in elder care, helping people with cancer or rare diseases, conducting research, or identifying clinical trials. Still other advocates have experience working with particular groups, such as people with disabilities, veterans, or the LGBT community. Be sure the advocate you choose is a good match for you.

Find out how long the advocate has been in practice. Is she a member in good standing of a professional association? What kind of service does she provide to her profession?

Does the advocate give back to the community by supporting local causes, particularly healthcare navigation services for low-income individuals? Finally, does the advocate spend the time to really listen carefully to you and respond compassionately to your needs during an initial no-obligation consultation?

HOW DO YOU BILL FOR YOUR SERVICES?

After your no-obligation consultation to determine if my services are a good fit for your needs, I bill on an hourly basis. I charge the market rate for similar services in the geographic area.

I’m here for you