My 89-year-old friend, we’ll call him Chris, fell and broke his hip and arm. He had only 36 hours before hospital discharge to find a local nursing home to provide physical therapy and nursing care for his recovery. New to the area, neither Chris nor his wife had previously visited any local facilities to learn more about this type of resource for a future need. Which one is the best? How would they know? Will Medicare pay for all of the care and for how long? What about when he goes home? What equipment would be needed, who would pay for it and for how long? Who would help his wife care for him?
As a nursing leader for nearly 30 years, I have witnessed the health care system become more complex and fragmented without clear and consistent communication with its patients. Patients are rushed in and out of hospitals and medical appointments with little time spent on assuring a plan is in place that works for the patient, their family and their pocketbook. On the other hand, hospitals and insurance companies typically employ advocates to work for the organization with goals of keeping costs low.
Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his creation of a Master Plan on Aging for the growing California population of seniors aged 65+ which is projected to be more than 8.6 million by 2030. His plan calls for “in-home supportive services” and “person-centered care.” With his plan, the governor recognizes what the literature reveals – the lack of social support impacts health outcomes for seniors. Seniors need their own nurse advocate who can engage volunteers or a multitude of other community resources to help them live independently at home based upon the nurse’s knowledge of the senior’s needs.
Patient advocacy has been the cornerstone of nursing since the days of Florence Nightingale and nurses are the most trusted profession. Across the country, nurses have started health advocacy businesses to help patients and families navigate the growing challenges in health care. Nurse advocates are especially helpful during the midst of a crisis, with insurance billing issues, or just as a resource to find answers when no one else in the health care system seems to be listening. A professional nurse advocate coordinates medical appointments, ensures ‘Doctor A’ knows what ‘Doctor B’ is ordering and why, makes sure test results are received timely and communicated, makes arrangements for home care and equipment and helps correct any problems with medical billing and insurance payment. However, nurse advocates rely upon private pay and not all seniors can afford this service.
If you’re not a senior, one day you will be and you may find yourself or a family member in a medical crisis. Who better to call than an experienced nurse advocate?
Make your voice heard. Contact Governor Newsom at https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ and ask that payment for nurse advocates become part of California’s Master Plan on Aging.
As for my friend, Chris, I found him great local skilled care. He recovered and is back to Mahjong on the patio at his own home.
Tammy Porter is a registered nurse (RN), certified professional in healthcare quality (CPHQ), certified case manager (CCM) and a certified parish nurse. She can be reached at [email protected].