Elder Advocates and Sitters May Be Your Best Allies in Caring for the Aging
The Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging states that persons 65 years or older numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). That's about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. As the number of elders in our society rises, many end up in health care facilities for temporary or long-term periods. In these cases, elder advocates and sitters can relieve concerned family members and give them peace of mind.
What's an Elder Advocate?
Elder advocates speak on behalf of their patients and their patient's families to ensure they are getting the care they deserve and expect. Some advocates work with state services, social workers, or health care facilities directly to ensure that their rights are being protected. On a larger scale, advocates may address state legislators to pass laws that protect the elderly and punish neglectful or abusive caregivers and health care facilities. Generally, an elder advocate has an educational background in criminal justice, social services or a similar field and often has experience working with those going through traumatic or sensitive circumstances.
When enlisting the help of an advocate for the elders cared for, whenever possible, it's suggested that the elders themselves are involved in discussions relating to their care and are allowed to voice their expectations and concerns. Also, it's a good idea for family members directly involved in caring for elders to be present during discussions with an advocate so there are no miscommunications between the family and those being cared for.
Elder advocates can assist with financial planning, powers of attorney, health care proxies, estate planning and more.
What's a Sitter?
Sitter services for the elderly can be used in instances where the patient is cared for at home or while in health care facilities. While sitters generally do not administer medical attention, when caring for patients at home they may remind those under their care to take their medications, attend doctor's visits or help with errands, assist with getting dressed and help prepare meals. With patients in health care facilities, they may read to them, assist with eating, share conversation or just provide companionship. This can be especially comforting when family members have demanding jobs or live too far away for frequent visits to their loved ones.
Just as when seeking other professional services, it can be daunting knowing where to turn for advocates and sitters for an elder under your care. But there are services and resources to make things easier. Visit the USA.gov to find articles related to consumer protection for seniors that covers advocates for residents of nursing homes, elder rights protection, as well as list of offices and agencies listed by state.
With the right resources and planning, enlisting the help of elder advocates and sitters can alleviate much of the stress related to caring for an aging loved one.