How To Effectively Advocate for An Aging Loved One

Advocate for Elderly Seniors

As a senior’s loved one, you may be looking for more ways to support them as they age. Becoming their advocate is a simple but important task. 

Senior advocates exist for several reasons. They understand a senior’s needs (financial, emotional, physical), help them receive appropriate services and treatments, and ensure that their voices are heard by others. Senior advocates don’t need to be full-time caregivers.

What is the difference between a senior advocate and a caregiver?

Essentially, a senior advocate shows up, literally and figuratively, for an elderly loved one who might need help receiving the quality care they need. A senior caregiver usually takes on several roles. Caregivers might help a loved one navigate money management, home maintenance, scheduling, at-home medication, and a social life. Senior advocacy can also be a critical aspect of caregiving, but it is not always the responsibility of the caregiver, and vice-versa. 

Typically, a senior advocate will be a family member, friend, loved one, neighbor, or community member. Senior advocates who fall into one of these categories are usually not paid for their services. 

If you are looking to hire a senior advocate, you can also look for help by searching for an “eldercare advocate.” Whereas an unpaid senior advocate can assume many different roles, a paid senior advocate might have boundaries around which services they would provide. 

What does it mean to be a senior advocate?

As a senior advocate, you need a deep understanding of your loved one’s wishes for their quality of life and care plan. It’s part of your responsibility to make sure that anyone involved in their care observes your loved one’s requests. This means that you might lead the organization or management of legal and financial matters. You might also coordinate treatments or other medical services when necessary.

You can hire a paid senior advocate if you have the means and other family members cannot fill the role. However, you do not need to be a professional senior advocate to successfully support your loved one. Anyone who listens well and respects the autonomy of an elderly loved one most likely has the skills it takes to be an advocate and you can certainly learn more along the way. 

Here are some skills that can help you become an effective senior advocate:

  • Organization. Organization is key whether you are in charge of your loved one’s entire care plan, including medical, financial, and legal management, or you specialize in just one type of advocacy. You may need to organize to-do lists, paperwork, and/or legal documents.
  • Observation. Use observational skills to notice small shifts in your loved one’s health or behavior and adjust treatment plans to find a solution. It helps to have some sort of routine phone call or video chat if you do not live with your loved one. This makes it easier to identify and solve issues. For example, if you notice your loved one has a fear of falling and talks about it frequently, you can start discussing medical alert system options to increase their sense of comfort and safety. An On-the-Go + Fall Detection medical alert system could help alleviate stress about a potential fall. 
  • Communication. Senior advocacy should center around the senior in question[1]. With that in mind, make sure your communication with your loved one is respectful, honest, and solution oriented. Keeping notes from appointments and past discussions will help streamline communication between you, your loved one, and their care team.
  • Questioning. As a senior advocate, it’s important that you get as much information as you and your loved one need to make effective decisions. This means asking questions when needed. It might be helpful to create a list of questions before appointments to stay organized. You can even question your own advocacy and figure out how to be more supportive. 
  • Perseverance. You need to be determined in your advocacy. Your observations, organization, and questions might be the reason your loved one gets the care they need. It’s important that you take this role seriously and lean on a support system if you need encouragement. Set clearly defined goals to achieve your loved one’s wishes and an action plan for reaching them.

What are some ways to be a senior advocate?

Senior advocates often help elderly loved ones with medical, financial, or legal management. The responsibilities of a senior advocate range widely. Remember that you do not need to be an expert to be helpful. As much as you might want to prepare, much of senior advocacy comes from learning through experience. 

Let’s look at some of the ways you can be a senior advocate in a medical capacity:

  • Help your loved one prepare for their appointments. Check in with your loved one leading up to the appointment, even a few weeks ahead of time. How are they feeling? Have they noticed anything concerning or bothersome? Has anything changed since their last appointment? Casual check-ins are less stressful and time-sensitive than appointments. You will probably get fuller, more descriptive answers from your loved one by checking in before the appointment. Then, you both will have more information to share with the doctor. 
  • Keep records of the appointments. Take detailed notes during appointments[2]. You and your loved one will both have difficulty recalling everything the doctor said during a visit. If you have a detailed record of your loved one’s care visits, you can both revisit that information at any time. This information might be especially helpful if you need help understanding certain aspects of the appointment, if a treatment recommendation has changed, or if your loved one works with a team of care specialists.
  • Communicate with your loved one and their care team. Strong communication is integral to your loved one’s continued good health. You should ask questions in the doctor’s office and contact the care team with any follow-up questions after the visit. Another important part of advocacy communication is coordinating between different care specialists to make sure every part of your loved one’s care team is on the same page. 
  • Learn about potential treatments. Seniors often seek treatment for multiple health issues. You should have an understanding of each issue, potential treatments, and medication side effects. This part of your advocacy could also include researching helpful supplementary tools, like medical alert systems. Providing your loved one with an On-the-Go + In-Home + Fall Detection medical alert system can assure that 24/7/365 assistance is always available, which is perfect for those times when you can’t be there in person. 
  • Coordinate with their care team to conduct an annual medication review. You should request a medication review at least once per year[3]. Because many seniors have concurrent health conditions, each with its own medication or treatment, it’s imperative that the medications work together effectively and do not cause harm. The care team will also investigate medication timing and combinations. A medication review can reveal if a certain medication is still necessary. You will bring bottles of each supplement, vitamin, prescription, and non-prescription drug to the visit, so that the doctor conducting the review can compare medications and dosages.
  • Discuss solutions for treatment prices. You may or may not help your loved one with financial management[4]. Either way, budgeting is usually part of the medical process. Talking directly to their doctor is a great strategy for lowering treatment costs. Doctors can reduce their fees, provide free samples of costly prescriptions, and talk with you and your loved one about financial assistance opportunities. The best way to get these benefits is speaking directly with a doctor. You can be the liaison that helps your loved one receive discounted medical care.

Although these advocacy steps relate directly to medical support, you can translate the same skills and strategies to help with financial or legal management. 

Your loved one might be resistant to your advocacy at first. It is difficult for some seniors to accept help. If your loved one seems hesitant about the idea of a senior advocate, let them know that your role is not to take away their independence or override their decision-making ability but rather to help support their decisions and not take agency away from them. Your loved one will take the lead in visits, meetings, and other decisions, but you, their advocate, will assist by asking questions, keeping records, and making sure their voice is heard.

When you can’t be there, consider a medical alert system

When you become a senior advocate, you help your loved one make decisions that can improve their quality of life. Outfitting them with an Alert1 24/7/365 button alarm is a low-cost, high benefit decision that you can make together right away. 

How does a personal emergency response system work? Let’s say your loved one falls. They will either push the button themselves, or fall detection technology may sense their fall, and they will be connected to a 24/7/365 command center. A highly trained and certified member of the Alert1 emergency response team will answer your loved one’s call. The agent will stay on the line until help arrives. 

Senior advocates can help elderly loved ones choose medical alert systems that work for them. An active senior might choose the On-the-Go Wrist Watch Medical Alert + GPS + Pedometer, while someone who spends more time at home might prefer the In-Home + Fall Detection medical alert system. 

If you also help with money management, Alert1 offers lifesaving medical alert systems at prices that are very affordable—some of the best priced alerts for seniors in the industry. Your loved one will not pay fees for “false alarms” or multiple button pushes. As you start your journey as a senior advocate, a medical alert system can ensure that support is always available, even when you’re not.




[1] Cascella, Laura M. 2020. 10 Strategies for Communicating Effectively with Senior Care Residents. MedPro Group. 10 Strategies for Communicating Effectively with Senior Care Residents.

[2] Jaffe, Susan. 2014, Mar. 4. How to Keep Track of What Your Doctor Says: Bring Along a Note Taker. AARP Blog. How to Keep Track of What Your Doctor Says: Bring Along a Note Taker.

[3] Blenkinsopp, Alison, et al. 2012, May 18. Medication reviews. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Medication reviews.

[4] Hoyt, Jeff, Stanley, Maureen. 2021, Sept. 15. A Guide to Finance for Seniors. A Guide to Finance for Seniors.