LIVINGSTON, NJ – On Tuesday, May 14, CareOne at Livingston hosted a presentation on “How to Be Your Loved One’s Advocate,” by Jacqueline O’Doherty, a certified patient advocate and geriatric care manager who founded Health Care Connect, LLC.

O’Doherty explained that her career is part of a new and growing field dedicated to empowering and guiding patients and seniors through the healthcare system.

“Doctors don’t always talk to each other; rather, they focus on their own particular specialties when dealing with a patient’s care,” said O’Doherty. “I am like a quarterback who brings everything and everyone together,” she added.

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O’Doherty explained that a patient advocate researches illnesses and disease, ensures understanding of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options, locates physicians and centers of excellence, facilitates communication among all of the caregivers, obtains and monitors homecare, nurses, home health aides, therapists and researches and facilitates short- and long-term care options and rehabilitation.

She also said that it is important to keep all necessary personal and medical documents including copies of insurance cards, advance directives, living wills, power of attorney documents, a POLST document, and HIPPA forms, as well as a list of medications and allergies, a completed medical history, and a list of treating physicians all together.

“I tell each client to buy a spiral notebook with clear plastic pockets to keep all documents handy and in one place,” said O’Doherty. “I also advise them to let all people involved in their care write down what they have said and done in the notebook so they always have a record with them.”

O’Doherty also explained that since people often see hospitalists and not necessarily their own doctors when in the hospital, the notebook and folders ensure that anyone providing treatment knows as much as possible.

Karen E. Groder, LPN, president of Stellar Home Care and Staffing, agreed about the importance of having an advance directive handy.

“In health care, we sometimes run into a situation where a family member says not to tell a patient how sick they are,” said Groder. “This puts a stop to how we are going to take care of a person.”

O’Doherty advised that it is important for the patient’s wishes, at the end of their life, to be honored. She handed out a document called, “New Jersey Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining treatment (POLST),” which is a legal document that must be filled out and signed by a doctor.

She also discussed the importance of not being afraid to ask questions and get answers.

“Medicine is a science and an art and we need to be able to know about all medical options and have the ability to ask questions and get the best answers,” said O’Doherty.

Next, O’Doherty told the audience of the importance for proper discharge planning.

“This is where everything goes wrong,” said O’Doherty. “Discharge planning starts at admission and proper discharge leads to a more successful outcome,” she added.

She ended her discussion by saying that “all patients have choices and options and the right to make informed decisions.”