Tunstall Healthcare is a provider of assistive technology, backed by a 24/7 monitoring service, to support the care and independence of people in the community.

When seeking support, it’s inevitable that people will deal with large organisations – many of which make use of convoluted systems and processes that can make it difficult for already marginalised people to achieve satisfactory outcomes.

That’s why it’s so important we work together to give struggling people the opportunity to be heard. Advocating for loved ones means providing clarity if necessary and encouraging them to make choices based on their own values.

So, how can you be an effective advocate for the important people in your life?

1. Be aware of their needs

As an advocate, you need to be present and observant. That means taking notice of changes in their lives. Such changes can include shifts in behaviour and ability, or care delivered by other providers.

It can be hard to stay conscious of these things for family advocates, as they often live at a distance and have other life responsibilities to manage. Hiring a third party professional advocate may make things easier for all involved, as they will live nearby and be able to give your loved one their undivided attention.

That said, it’s important to keep yourself involved, even if someone else is handling the day-to-day care.

2. Let your loved one make the decisions

Remember that your role is not to make choices on your loved one’s behalf. Instead, you should help them make decisions in line with their existing values, and then assist in enacting that choice.

So many things can become confused when a person has difficulty seeing, hearing or remembering. An advocate should work to enhance communication in all directions – explaining options to your loved one, as well as interpreting their wishes where needed.

Life can become frustrating and discouraging when one is unable to follow through on their choices, so handling the logistics is an important part of giving power to your loved one. Providing reliable transport options is one example of how you can help a person living with a disability to live freely.

3. Respect their rights

As an advocate, you may not be entitled to disclose personal information about your loved one to health care or financial professionals.

It is your role to understand the rights of your loved one and do your best to see that they are upheld – that means respecting privacy and ensuring financial abuse and similar hardships are not in play.

4. Understand the systems

To be able to provide effective ongoing support, you’ll need to have a working understanding of the obstacles in your loved one’s life.

This means questioning everything. Keep yourself educated about the health conditions your loved one is managing as well as the organisations they need to work with. By fully comprehending the ins and outs of the processes which may confuse your loved one, you can better provide clarity when needed.

5. Seek out empowering solutions

Most advocates cannot be with their loved one 24/7. So an important part of helping a senior or disabled person to feel empowered is to provide simple but effective systems in the home.

Connected care technology exists as an unobtrusive monitoring solution, communicating to an advocate or emergency services when accidents or other incidents occur. Devices can be tailored to the individual, and include wearable devices which can provide support without feeling like a crutch.

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