Why a Health Advocate Is Your Most Important Health Care Plan!


This is the final article in my series on health care.  This article has been preceded by nine other articles.  There is no need to read them in order but if you have not read the other nine, you will be missing a good deal of information that just might help you live longer, healthier and happier.  As I finish this series on health care, I am gratified that over the ten weeks I have been writing about the subject, I have found only more evidence that confirms the advice and opinions I have given in this series.  In this final article, I want to talk about how important it is to have someone as an advocate when you enter the health care system in this country.  Let me tell you a personal story that illustrates this point very well.

Several years ago, my sister lay dying in hospice care.  Hospice care is a gentle humane way of helping ease out a person who is at deaths door.  By gradually increasing their doses of morphine, the patients’ bodily functions will eventually slow down and finally cease.  If a patient is accepted into hospice care, it is assumed that they are terminally ill.  What might be a slow lingering painful death without hospice, becomes a respectful and hopefully painless termination of vital processes and death.

My mother went into hospice care in 1994 and died in three days.  She had a terminal infection which was beyond treatment.  We (sisters and brother) sat with her until she expired.  My sister Sheri was also accepted into hospice care in 1999.  She was only fifty-one years old.  She was considered terminal due to her advanced cancer.  As a family, we began another vigil waiting for my sister to succumb to the cancer and morphine.  However, things did not go the same path with my sister.

We noticed that she would seem to come in and out of consciousness.  Often, when she came out she would seem quite rationale and even energetic.  The nurses did not seem to pay much attention to these episodes.  One day, the morphine drip somehow came unplugged.  My sister became quite lucid and wanted to know if it was time for her to do taxes.  She did not seem like a patient near death.  We demanded that they take her off the morphine.  This met with much resistance as I assume they thought my sister would be in great pain and that we would be the instigators of a now painful as well as inevitable death.  Such was not the case.  My sister revived and seemed very healthy.  In a day or so she was out of the hospital.  She moved in with my sister and lived another three years before she passed away in 2002.  The next three years were not always good ones for my sister but we never regretted the decision to take her out of hospice.

Advocacy-bannerThe point of this story is that if we had not been siting vigil at my sister’s deathbed, we would not have been able to prevent a premature death.  This is merely one example of the value of an “advocate” when you must go to a hospital.  I am sure everyone reading this blog has at least one example that highlights how important it is to have someone as an advocate when you are in the hospital.

A health advocate is a family member, friend, trusted coworker, or a hired professional who can ask questions, write down information, and speak up for you so you can better understand your illness and get the care and resources you need – giving you a peace of mind so you can focus on your recovery.

Nurses, doctors and staff all want to do a good job and provide wonderful healthcare.  However, our health care system is under tremendous pressure to cut costs and reduce expenses.  This translates to less time available to care for each patient.  Less time that a nurse or doctor can spend with each patient.

advocateAn alarm might go off in an intensive care room but not be noticed for quite some time.  I have personally observed many times when a patient needed to call someone for assistance but no one came.  Unable to get out of bed, a patient may have to wait a long time before someone is finally able to help them.  In many cases, an advocate in the room can help a patient with minor personal needs.  If more severe needs exist, the advocate can be of assistance if finding someone to help and making sure that the patient needs are not overlooked or even forgotten.

Advocates assist people with making sure their rights are respected. They help consumers to resolve complaints about health or disability services. They operate independently of government agencies, the Health and Disability Commissioner, and the funders of health and disability services.

70b2adaac53bf082bb116c279362275c_advocacy-clip-art-clipart-download-advocacy-clipart_1822-1415Another function an advocate can provide is to stand up for the patient when needed.  Most of the time when we are feeling sick or hurting, we are in no position to stand up for what we need or want.  In such instances, a patient only wants the pain to go away.  Hospitals and health care providers often have needs that transcend the needs of the patient.  The patient that must play second fiddle to a variety of administrative and financial procedures.  Another example might clarify this.

Three years ago, I went to the Mayo Clinic for prostate surgery.  The surgery went fine and I was sent to a room for recovery.  The night passed as most do in a hospital.  Interminable interruptions for pills, blood tests and getting up to walk the surgery unit for exercise.  The night nurse was polite and helpful.  She left sometime after 7 AM and a new nurse came on shift.  She immediately informed me that I had to be out of the room by 12 PM and I should try to do more walking.

I had thought that I was doing a great job of getting mobile but I had not met my new nurse’s standard.  I started to try to walk more and meantime I became fixated on the clock in my room.  I still felt like shit as I watched the hands on the clock move inexorably towards 12 PM.  I am sure that Cinderella did not feel as bad as I felt since she would only be outed as a pauper while I be would be viewed as weak, wimpy and unable to meet standards that every other male prostate victim in America had met.

Fortunately, when the witching hour arrived, I had my advocate intercede on my behalf.  My wife Karen who had kept vigil with me this whole time told them in no uncertain terms that I was not going anywhere until I felt better.  It was now 12 PM but with her assurance, I fell into a deep sleep.  I awoke two hours later and immediately saw that the clock hands were on 2 PM.  Somehow, this extra sleep time was all I needed.  I practically jumped out of bed and started grabbing my clothes.  Karen who had been napping in a chair beside my bed woke up.  I said, “Lets go, we are getting out of here.” She replied, “but we are not packed.”  I replied, “I don’t care, I want to get out of here now.”  Karen grabbled whatever we could and we made the 2-hour drive back to Arizona City from Scottsdale.  I was not sure how I was going to handle two hours in the car post-surgery but I did not care.  I wanted out of the Mayo Clinic and back in my own bed.  To this day, I wonder how much stock my second nurse had in the Mayo Clinic.

Preserver wNew Shadow-logo tagline

My rule now is this.  I will never let a friend or relative go to a hospital for treatment (regardless of how minor) by themselves.  If I have a friend who has no one to go with them, I will be their advocate.  If Karen needs to go to a doctor, clinic or hospital for any reason, even a hangnail, I will go with her.  Hospitals can be places of healing but they can also unexpectedly be places of death.  No one should assume or take for granted what might or might not happen at a hospital.  I could provide many more examples of unintended consequences that happened to friends and people we knew when they went into a hospital.  Better to be safe than sorry.

Patient advocates can work to help patients and their families by providing a variety of services, depending on the patient’s needs and the advocate’s area of expertise. They may help them to secure health care, manage insurance, or make treatment plan decisions.

Your advocate is your best health care plan.  Your advocate can have your back when you are under the weather or unable to defend yourself.  Your advocate can help make sure that the hospital and its providers live up to their own expectations.  Your advocate can help watch over you when everyone else is busy with other patients or administrative tasks.

Pity the poor person who goes into a hospital without a personal advocate.

This now concludes my series on health care.  I hope my blogs on health care have been useful and that you have found some ideas that will help you to lead a healthier, happier and more robust life.

Time for Questions:

Can you think of a time when you wished you had an advocate?  Were you ever an advocate for someone else?  What role do you think an advocate should play in healthcare?  Do you agree that everyone needs an advocate?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“For he who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”  — Owen Arthur


Why do we need all those damn Disabled people anyway?

disabled people

I just found out this morning (11-16-15) that my best friend Brian Rogers committed suicide yesterday at 3:30 PM.  He drove out to the home that he loved so much and had to sell due to his disability and shot himself.  I want to re-post this blog in his honor.  Brian reviewed and gave me input on this blog and was very proud of it. The title might sound insulting so I encourage you to read it. You will find out what a remarkable man Brian was and how much he loved life.  

Gimps, retards, morons, cripples, idiots, loony toons, wackos, everywhere you look we are surrounded by them these days.  Whatever happened to the good old days when you could walk down Main Street without having to look at some retard?  And to make matters worse, they are destroying our health care system.  All that tax money we waste on these losers who have never worked a day in their lives.  I think Hitler had the right idea:  Euthanasia.   Get rid of them and save the world for those of us who are productive citizens.  Do you know where Hitler got his ideas from?  Right here in America.  We started the whole idea of euthanasia to create a pure White All American Race of hard working honest loyal and patriotic citizens.  Citizens who could eat apple pie with two hands!  Citizens who could play real baseball and not some weak water downed handicapped version for gimps!  Citizens who could put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay!  (Social Movement for School Song by Pilot Speed)

The “Nazi euthanasia campaign” of mass murder gathered momentum on 14 January 1940 when the “handicapped” were killed with gas vans and killing centers, eventually leading to the deaths of 70,000 adult Germans.   Professor Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors and a leading authority on the T4 program, contrasts this program with what he considers to be a genuine euthanasia.  He explains that the Nazi version of “euthanasia” was based on the work of Adolf Jost, who published The Right to Death in 1895. Lifton writes: “Jost argued that control over the death of the individual must ultimately belong to the social organism, the state.  This concept is in direct opposition to the Anglo-American concept of euthanasia, which emphasizes the individual’s ‘right to die’ or ‘right to death’ or ‘right to his or her own death,’ as the ultimate human claim.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia#Early_euthanasia_movement_in_the_United_States

What happened was that Hitler had the courage of his convictions and back here in the USA, we balked at the idea of killing people for the good of the country.  Think of the money and expenses and problems that Hitler’s ideas could have solved!  Think of the productivity improvements that a Master Race of Americans would have created!  Well, at least we don’t have to pay these gimps minimum wage.  Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act authorizes employers, after receiving a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division, to pay special minimum wages – wages less than the Federal minimum wage – to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed.

Workers with developmental disabilities, including persons with significant support needs, are dependable and reliable workers. In several major studies (Kregel, Parent, & West, 1994; Kregel & Unger, 1993; Shafer et al., 1987; Shafer et al., 1988) over 900 supervisors and employers were asked to rate the work performance of persons with disabilities in comparison to workers in similar jobs who did not have any identified disabilities. Workers with disabilities were rated higher than their non-disabled counterparts on a number of factors, including attendance, arriving to work and returning from breaks on time, accepting authority, and being accepted by the public.  Why It Pays to Hire Workers with Developmental Disabilities —  by John Kregel

Hell, you can’t trust all these stupid studies done by these bleeding heart liberals.  They would say anything to protect a few gimps.  What if they can be productive disabled logo for webworkers?  What if they do work as hard as or even harder than “normal” people?  They still take up much of our hard earned tax dollars for their health problems.  They are a big drain on our already overtaxed healthcare system.   Look at it this way, if we did not have to pay for medical care for the disabled, we would have a lot more money to spend on those of us who need medical care for legitimate reasons like: Smoking, alcoholism, obesity and gunshot wounds.  Heck, I can’t even get up close to the emergency room in the hospital when my buddy accidently shoots me, because I don’t have a handicapped parking sticker.  Too many stores have too many places for the disabled.  If we had less disabled, costs of handicapped parking signs would drop precipitously.   Did I mention the costs of legitimate medical care for the veterans fighting to protect Americans in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq? These guys deserve the medical care since they are doing productive work and not trying to weasel out by claiming some weird medical problem.

A 2014 study by the private American foundation The Commonwealth Fund found that although the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world, it ranks last on most dimensions of performance when compared with AustraliaCanadaFranceGermanythe Netherlands,  New Zealand,  Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The study found that the United States failed to achieve better outcomes than other countries, and is last or near last in terms of access, efficiency and equity. Study data came from an international surveys of patients and primary care physicians, as well as information on health care outcomes from The Commonwealth Fund, the World Health Organization, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Disabled ad_Faye adWow, I guess this means they must have less retards and cripples in these other countries or are they implying that mismanagement and inefficiency are the true causes of high health care costs in the USA?  Well, you know those Europeans; most of them are commies and socialists.   The real issue is that most of these so-called disabled people are actually treated very well by the more abled body in this country.  They shouldn’t complaint about the privileges and treatments they get from the rest of us.  Just to test this theory out, I decided to talk to a disabled friend of mine and see what he thinks.    I asked him how he feels about the treatment that disabled people get and particularly the treatment he gets as a disabled person.   Here is what my friend Brian Rogers said:

“I will add that our desire is simply inclusion in the mainstream of society.  They evaluate us as differently-abled with great skills and a history of a great work commitment to our nation, but only in times of war. We are the only minority that does not discriminate; you can enter our group in a heartbeat.  We are strong in number. The American Medical Association states there are 43 million Americans with disabilities.  Our failure to be fully integrated into society is our own. We did not capitalize on the American’s with Disabilities Act of July 26, 1990.  We did not have leaders like our brothers and sisters in the civil rights movement of the 60’s.  We should have learned and developed our leadership from within the Disability Rights Movement.  If the disabled community had more leadership and control of our services and programs, everyone would have been better off.  We must take the “dis” out of disability.”

IMG_0733“People don’t understand discrimination until they have tasted the bitterness.  My barriers are mostly attitudinal, not concrete and steel. Barrier free environments improve everyone’s life, not just people with physical disabilities.  People ask me what I would like to do.  I would just like to go into a grocery store and buy a loaf of bread, without drawing unwanted attention.  Did you notice when we went to lunch the other day?  The server talked only to you.  She avoided looking at me or saying a word to me.  That happens all the time.”

I was somewhat shocked when Brian mentioned to me the lunch situation.  I had not even noticed it.  It is easy to notice your own problems but much more difficult to be aware of the problems that face other people.  It would be easy to dismiss Brian as an anomaly or a unique case unless you knew Brian.  I have had several friends who were disabled including:  Billy Golfus, Jeff Bangsberg and Brian Rogers.  They have all been unique individuals.  I have not known one of them to be content taking handouts or sitting on their butts expecting other people to do things for them.  In fact, they have done more than the average person I know to help others and to remain independent despite their disabilities.  (Everyone is Differently Abled Song)

I have been friends with Brian Rogers for over 5 years now.  Four or five times a week at the Frederic Library and often at his house we meet to discuss politics and other assorted subjects.  Brian has traveled a good deal of America, has met several presidents, ran major university programs and later in his life supported himself by becoming a Grant Writer.  Brian was Volunteer of the Year in Frederic in 1990 and has written numerous grants that have benefited his community.  From funding for the Frederic Library to computers for schools, when Brian sees a need he takes it as challenge to help others.  Having faced Cerebral Palsy all his life and now into his later sixties, Brian remains independent and pays his own way.  He is proud that he has never been on unemployment a day in his life. There are not many “abled” bodied people who could make that claim.

Every time I talk to Brian he is full of ideas that could help other disabled as well as other “abled” people.  He is currently working on zippers and clothing to help who-cares-about-disabled-people-26755-1300415261-4protect disabled people from falls.   He recently proposed a grant to help men facing aging and dealing with the transition from an active to an inactive lifestyle.  Yesterday morning Brian fell and bruised himself rather badly.  Walking is not and has never been easy for Brian.  I have noticed that Brian has had many falls over the years and sometimes it seems to me that with age they are getting more painful and more harmful.  Nevertheless, Brian goes out every day and navigates a world with numerous barriers and obstacles that many of us take for granted.  He remains positive and optimistic about life and his ability to make a difference in the world.  Brian says, we are all disabled by one problem or another.

How many people do you know who do not have some type of medical condition that impairs their functioning?  Disability is not a disease.  It is a fact of life that as Brian states can happen to any us in a heartbeat.  It is an inevitability that will embrace every one of us as we age and grow older.

(Please take time to listen to both of the songs I have posted on Disabilities.  They are visual as well as auditory treats.)

Time for Questions:

Do you make time to help others?  Do you help those who are less abled than you are?  If you are disabled, do you still try to remain positive about life?  Do you try to make a difference in the world not just for abled bodied people but for all people?  Do you speak out against discrimination towards people who are disabled?   Do you speak out against people who denigrate and disparage disabled people with names like gimps and retards?

Life is just beginning.

Gradatim by Josiah Gilbert Holland (1872)

Heaven is not reached at a single bound;

But we build the ladder by which we rise

From the lowly earth, to the vaulted skies,

And we mount to its summit round by round.

I count this thing to be grandly true:

That a noble deed is a step toward God,

Lifting the soul from the common clod

To a purer air and a broader view.

We rise by the things that are under feet;

By what we have mastered of good and gain;

By the pride deposed and the passion slain,

And the vanquished ills that we hourly meet.

We hope, we aspire, we resolve, we trust,

When the morning calls us to life and light,

But our hearts grow weary, and, ere the night,

Our lives are trailing the sordid dust.

We hope, we resolve, we aspire, we pray,

And we think that we mount the air on wings

Beyond the recall of sensual things,

While our feet still cling to the heavy clay.

Wings for the angels, but feet for men!

We may borrow the wings to find the way—

We may hope, and resolve, and aspire, and pray;

But our feet must rise, or we fall again.

Only in dreams is a ladder thrown

From the weary earth to the sapphire walls;

But the dreams depart, and the vision falls,

And the sleeper wakes on his pillow of stone.

Heaven is not reached at a single bound;

But we build the ladder by which we rise

From the lowly earth, to the vaulted skies,

And we mount to its summit, round by round.

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