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The NSPA Blog

Nurse Advocates intercede in the plight of the elderly

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Posted on May 28th, 2012 by Teri Dreher, under Patient Advocacy, Senior Orphans

Nurse advocates are invaluable resources for anyone struggling with hospitalization or home health care challenges and don’t know how to navigate through the many decisions and challenges that await them. Health care is growing increasingly complex, confusing and even dangerous.

One thing that has amazed me over the years is the number of people who live completely isolated lives in this country. With the many freedoms that our citizens enjoy, people are free to live any way they choose, and it is not always healthy. Older folks are not always as connected to others as they age. I once worked in the home care field and was shocked at how many of our elderly people are living, even in affluent communities; in homes that appear upper middle class on the outside. Inside these homes, I have found people who look like they just stepped off of the set of a reality TV show. Evidence of compulsive hoarding, neglect of basic sanitation, visable signs of festering wounds and mental illness made me want to cry for these forgotten people. Many had once been successful in every sense of the term, but over the years all their family members had died, and friends drifted away. Neighbors were unaware of what went on behind closed doors. Home delivery of food and mail order shopping allowed them to lived unnoticed in deplorable conditions. In cases such as these, advocacy sometimes means appealing to the state for a court appointed guardian and possible placement in an extended care facility. I look back now and wonder if early intervention by a professioanl nurse advocate could have made a difference to the people I speak of. Helping them gain access to physical and mental health care, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, following up to assure compliance and assessing their week to week needs could probably have kept this couple in their home much longer, where they were happiest, though at the time not necessarily safest.

The elderly in this country have become the forgotten minority. Many have adequate financial resources, yet sadly have no one left to personally care for their health and physical/emotional well being. If you know someone who needs help, and you feel a sense of impending calamity when you have contact with them, do both of yourselves a favor and talk to them about professional nurse advocacy. Wether you call this an act of conscience, a “random act of kindness”, or a decision to “pay it forward”, I think you will sleep better knowing that you tried to make a difference in someone’s life who may have been floundering before you offered a hand. Someday that hand just may come back to you when you also need it…!

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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