Becoming Your Own Health Advocate - Essential Tips for Older Adults

Health becomes very important once you get to your 50s and beyond. The older you get, the more proactive you should be. There are several things you can do now for yourself or an older loved one to be your own health advocate.

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Becoming Your Own Health Advocate - Essential Tips for Older Adults
4 Min Read December 27th, 2022

If you're a senior or know one, you know that health is wealth. Not only is health top of mind, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle, finding the right providers, and educating yourself on wellness are also essential habits. You can do all this by holistically taking control of your health care journey. Want to learn more about becoming an advocate for your own health? We break it down below. 

Maintain Medical Records

Maintaining your own medical records is critical when trying to advocate for your own health. And as a senior, this will be all the more critical, as it can help you take charge of your health and keep track of all your appointments in a whole different way. You will also be able to reflect on past prescriptions, doctors' notes, and more. Be sure to also review each medical bill for errors after every visit to ensure accurate reports to look back on. 

If you need clarification about keeping all this information in one place, you can save all your medical records as one PDF. If you need to convert files into other formats, a PDF converter does this for free. Simply drag and drop your files into the tool and then upload your new file. This way, you can easily find all your medical history, records, prognosis, and details.

If your loved one is much older and not computer literate, you can easily help them with this, so they have access to their information. Caregivers and family, with permission, can access this information as they help your loved one with their doctor's visits and health needs.

Be sure to have the older loved one complete a HIPAA release before a crisis happens - Obtaining an Older Patient's Medical History | National Institute on Aging 

Consider Care Options

Older adults also start thinking about care options and aging-in-place. You may thus want to consider all the care options ahead of you. According to Retireguide, many seniors look into downsizing, so they can keep up with their homes easily. This can make home upkeep and maintenance more accessible, as you won't have a big house to manage. 

Another option is to consider a senior living facility, which is excellent if you require around-the-clock care or skilled nursing. Before choosing a senior home, read reviews on facilities in your area and research payment options, facility reports, and overall costs to help you make your decision.

Know Your Rights

This is the first and most crucial step in being an advocate for your own health. You need to know what your rights are as a patient. This includes things like the right to refuse treatment, the right to access your medical records, and the right to choose your own doctor. In addition, it will be necessary to assert yourself in medical situations. 

Understanding how your health insurance works is a big part of this. Be sure to find out details on coverage, premiums, clauses, and more, as this will set you up for when you need to use your insurance. In addition, if you have questions or concerns, make sure to voice them. And if you don't feel like you're being heard, don't hesitate to ask for a second opinion! You can refer to other health care providers and experts for this. 

Remember, health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, will only pay a limited amount of skilled long-term care. Most long-term health care services are not covered. Only Long-Term Care Insurance and Medicaid will pay for long-term care services. LTC Insurance must be purchased when you have reasonably good health, and most people do so in their 50s. Medicaid will pay for long-term care only if you have little or no income and assets.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Living healthy will be paramount in becoming a health advocate. After all, the healthier you are, the more independent of a life you'll be able to lead. How can you do so? Well, nutrition and exercise will be the key factors to watch. Regarding diet, be sure to take your necessary supplements each day and eat well-balanced meals full of fruit and vegetables. Drinking enough water will also be critical. 

For physical activity, it will be vital to prioritize getting movement in each day - the CDC recommends around 150 minutes a week. Be sure to get the sign-off on the kind of exercise you do from your doctor to ensure it aligns with your health goals and needs. Try to find movement options you enjoy, too - yoga, aerobics, or dance classes are all excellent options for seniors. You can also sneak in quick exercise through small habits like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk after lunch. Additionally, seniors should stay socially active and mentally engaged, as social isolation and cognitive decline can lead to health problems.

Communicate Effectively

When advocating for your health, it's essential to be clear and concise in your communication. Make sure you understand the answer your health care provider gives you to clarify what you need to do for your health at all times. Working effectively with your health care providers similarly will be critical, as when you overcommunicate, you're setting yourself up to be understood and treated in an ideal way.  

Communicating with your primary support system will also be critical, as they will be with you through your health journey. If you need help from friends and family, don't hesitate to ask for it. In addition, if there are other specific ways your loved ones can show up for you, be sure to communicate this. 

Use Available Resources

Several resources are also available to seniors who want to advocate for their own health. These include support groups, online forums, and educational materials. Such resources can be a great comfort, as you'll be able to connect with those undergoing similar journeys. It can also be an excellent research mechanism to find the best health care providers, lifestyle changes, or assisted living facilities. 

Additionally, many communities have organizations for seniors to provide information and assistance. For example, the Affordable Care Act offers free preventative care for all seniors, which will be an excellent resource to look into. By taking advantage of these resources, you can stay informed about your health and make sure your voice is heard.

Ready to become your own health advocate? Speaking up for yourself and maintaining complete transparency on your wellness is a highly gratifying and fulfilling experience. Be sure to communicate effectively on your journey and uphold your healthy lifestyle for holistic health!

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About the Author

Marie is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. She developed a website to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources.

LTC News Contributor Marie Villeza

Marie Villeza

Contributor since June 22nd, 2017

Editor's Note

The cost of long-term health care is rapidly increasing. Medical science allows us to live longer, but that also increases the need for help with daily living activities or supervision due to dementia.

Medicare and health insurance pay little or nothing toward the cost of long-term health care. The financial repercussions may alter your way of life and legacy. It's important to consider how the costs and burdens of aging will affect your family.

Family caregivers are ill-equipped and unprepared for the job as your future caregiver. You probably don't want to make your adult children and their families bear the burden of being your future caregiver. Long-Term Care Insurance is an affordable solution for many families.

Professional care is expensive, be it in-home care or in a long-term care facility. Therefore being prepared is vital to any retirement plan. Most people get coverage in their 50s to take advantage of lower costs and more options.

Locate a Reliable and Experienced LTC Expert

Make sure to get the proper kind of professional assistance. A knowledgeable Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can assist you in navigating the many options from all the top insurance companies. Premiums vary over 100% between insurance companies, and each company has its own underwriting rules. 

A general insurance agent or financial advisor lacks this expertise.

Seek help from a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist and get accurate quotes and professional recommendations from all the top companies - Find a Long-Tern Care Specialist.

Have Questions About Long-Term Care Planning?

You probably have questions about long-term health care planning, and LTC NEWS provides the answers for many of the most asked questions here - Frequently Asked Questions. Find all the tools and resources that are available on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning.

The cost of long-term health care is exploding. This calculator is an outstanding tool whether you are helping someone find care today or you are planning for yourself for the decades ahead.

Find the current and future cost of long-term health care where you live - LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator.

Loved Ones Need Help Now?

Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

If your parent or parents need help, be sure to get them quality care. LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.

Start by reading our four guides -  

The Benefits of Today's Reverse Mortgages

Some people have a large portion of their savings in their homes. With the help of reverse mortgages, you can find ways to pay for quality in-home care, pay for LTC Insurance, and even assist with cash flow during retirement.

Yes, today's reverse mortgages may be the perfect way to pay for a Long-Term Care Insurance policy or even cover the cost of in-home care if you or a loved one is currently in need.

Asking an expert with your questions will help you learn more. Mike Banner, a columnist for LTC NEWS and the host of the television program "62 Who Knew," will respond to your inquiries about long-term care, reverse mortgages, aging, and health.

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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