Stephanie Mensh recently wrote a blog for the Disruptive Women in Health Care website. The title is, Getting What You Need From the System: Tips for Advocating. Ms. Mensch and her husband were in their 30's when he suffered a stroke. As she said, "Most caregivers learn to be personal advocates by "on the job" training. Her advice is valuable and we would like to share the personal and legal advocacy portions of it with you.
Most caregivers learn to be personal advocates by “on-the-job” training, usually starting with hospital, medical, and therapy providers, then health insurance. Here are some tips to help you improve your personal advocacy:
Sometimes the only way to get the services or resources you need is by taking legal action with the help of a lawyer.
Legal advocacy does not necessarily mean going to court. Most often, a lawyer can advocate for you through telephone calls and correspondence. Most legal actions relate to contract or financial problems, such as insurance companies paying claims, enforcing federal protections regarding employer’s sick leave/family leave policies, or negotiating with creditors to prevent foreclosure or bankruptcy. If you have been denied social security disability or other benefits, an attorney can file an appeal.
When Paul had his stroke, we decided to refinance the mortgage on our house. Our lawyer prepared a specific “power of attorney” so I could attend settlement alone, since Paul was too ill to leave the hospital.
Attorneys specialize in different areas. Look for one who specializes in your particular problem. Ask your family lawyer to refer you to a specialist, or contact the local bar association, or local legal aid organization. The American Bar Association has online referral links: http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm
Don’t wait for a family crisis. It is never too early to have a will, a power of attorney for financial/business affairs, and a power for health matters, as well as a living will that will provide instructions on life support if you become critically ill.