According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, advocacy is defined as “the act or process of advocating or supporting a cause”. I believe that our seniors very much need advocacy when interacting with our healthcare system. Even an office visit to their primary care physician, can be more beneficial to the information conveyed to the physician and from the physician for the senior to take home and follow through with. There is a phenomenon called “white coat syndrome” which means an increased level of stress on the individual seeing the doctor usually reflected in a higher than usual blood pressure. I think seniors also tend to have a stress affect in which they cannot remember all the information told by the doctor. I have also seen many a visit in which the senior tells the doctor how well everything is going and forgets to make the doctor aware of recent occurrences like falls or fainting or dizziness. For this reason, I believe that with each healthcare occurrence it is beneficial to the effectiveness of the encounter to have someone with that older person to be their eyes and ears and to remind them of the things they wanted to tell the physician.
With the average face to face visit with physicians being in the 14 minute range, very few seniors will bring up concerns or issues that trouble them without some prompting of the “advocate”. The advocate could be a spouse, son or daughter, caregiver or grandchild. It is also time better spent if a short list of the senior’s concerns or questions is drafted ahead of time and brought to the appointment. This same individual can take some notes and help remember the post-appointment information such as dosage changes and follow-up. I believe 14 minute appointments are often a disservice to everyone. I think physicians feel they have scratched the surface and not taken the time and patients often feel the doctor does not have the time for their needs. Sometimes I long for “the good old days”. Additional issues can be hearing impairment such that the senior does not hear large portions of the conversation, but does not let on. So, without advocacy the appointment may have become a waste of time for all concerned.