In the mental health field, there is much talk about the importance of advocacy: advocacy for self, the basis of all, and in the bigger picture, advocacy at the national, state, and local levels, advocacy about Important Issues—parity, disparity, and insularity.
But as primary and primal as these advocacies are, another advocacy must be discussed: advocacy one-on-one for a loved one, a voiceless one, someone with mental health issues who cannot speak for him/herself.
When my husband recently required hospitalization for dementia and walking issues, I instantly had to become Another’s Advocate. And in the process, I learned much. I would even liken my experience, in my fanciful moments, to being some of the animals in a zoo.
Want to feel like a lion? Get Durable Power of Attorney over your loved one. That is the paper that roars.
Want to feel like a giraffe? Stretch your neck out to reach up to Administration, which, like green leaves in winter, is nowhere to be found.
Want to feel like a cheetah? Run like the wind between nurses, doctors, and administration, trying to get the simplest need fulfilled—in my husband’s case, getting Ibuprofen for him (approved by the doctor).
Want to feel like a hippo? Flop down in the patient’s chair, or on your couch at home, and contemplate treading water. You’ll do a lot of it.
Want to feel like a silver-back alpha gorilla? Imagine getting the attention of a health care team that conveniently “ forgot” a doctor’s appointment, necessitating 12 more days of an unnecessary and un-requested enforced stay in a nursing facility at Medicare’s expense. Or imagine arguing not to have someone moved punitively because the advocate complained about the appalling waste.
Want to feel like a toucan? Well, no matter where you look in health care, there is a giant bill that goes with you.
So speak out for those you cherish. At times, you’ll squawk like a macaw, snarl like a panther, and sing like a lark. But don’t be scared. Be the Zoo.
Contributed by Ramona Taylor, Director of BRIDGES at MHA.
Image courtesy of Vaclav Volrab/123RF.com