Tue09022014

Your Health

Bring a guide along on your medical journey

Longtime Los Altos resident Stacia Skinner didn’t realize the challenges coming her way after doctors diagnosed her mother with breast cancer.

Without hesitation, Skinner swung into action, committed to doing whatever it took to help. But she couldn’t have imagined that the coming months would throw so many unforeseen obstacles her way.

Skinner’s dedication and tenacity in navigating the health-care system weren’t enough to keep up with medical professionals and multiple treatment plans.

The added stress of her own family and a full-time job forced her to find professional support to ensure the best care for her mom.

“I was reaching my limit,” she said.

Skinner was fortunate to find a local, experienced advocate to help with the medical duties: translating doctor-speak, avoiding medical mishaps, managing the bills and more.

Her family felt more confident, less stressed and better connected to the health-care team.

After her mother passed away, Skinner was able to reflect on her enormous loss without her grief being compounded by wondering if she had done enough.

Private professional health-care advocates are emerging as a valuable resource for anyone overwhelmed by caring for or being a patient.

Advocates are neutral third parties who bring their expertise in the medical system to individuals and families faced with critical care. They assist clients along the care continuum, accompanying them to medical visits, preparing them for surgery, helping their families through hospitalizations, managing medical records, recovering funds from insurance companies and more. For many patients, these professional advocates become their health-care tiger.

Following are steps for choosing a health-care advocate.

• Experience matters. Be sure to hire someone who has spent considerable time working in many facets of the health-care system.

• Be sure it’s a match. Hire someone you can imagine being in your home and by your bedside.

• Check references. Qualified advocates should provide the contact information of clients who can attest to their expertise.

• Choose the preferred backgrounds of the professionals you want to work with – nurses, social workers, physicians or insurance professionals.

The cost of advocacy services varies widely. Some may fall on the high end, while others work on a sliding scale or at no cost.

“Bringing my mom home for her final days was an overwhelming task,” Skinner said. “I wanted to ease her transition and prepare her home with all the necessary equipment and supplies. I was so fortunate to have an expert in my corner.”

Linda Adler is founder and CEO of Pathfinders Medical in Palo Alto. For more information, call 498-8276, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.pathfindersmedical.com.

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