Patient navigators: Assisting caregivers through the medical maze

I wish I had known that patient navigators existed when my father began his journey into the world of hospitals and nursing homes. I think it would have been worth the fee to have someone who had the knowledge and the experience in handling hospitals, nursing homes and billing issues.

With my mom, I felt I had better control over the situation. The hospital’s discharge planner gave me literature on the skilled nursing options in the area, and encouraged me to visit each of them before choosing one. I did and picked the facility with the best rehab services, because that was Mom’s most pressing need at the moment, her need to learn how to walk again. While the facility I chose did come with its own host of issues (that are pretty common in these places, unfortunately), the rehab was excellent and Mom left the facility fully walking on her own.


But with Dad, it seemed like his healthcare decisions were made by strangers. It didn’t help that often he was far from home when these decisions had to be made. Often, Mom and I felt like it was easier to go along with whatever the hospital recommended, because we were not familiar with the city Dad was in and the care options back at home were not sufficient for his needs. But it was when Dad first entered the nursing home world that we seemed the most helpless. I received a call just before Christmas 2010 with Mom telling me that Dad had been moved to Roswell. I assumed she meant to a hospital there because he was sick again, but no, it was an assisted living facility with a dementia wing.

I don’t know the details but Mom swears they moved Dad from the temporary rehab center he was in without her permission. I’ve asked people in hospital administration and they claim that is impossible, that payment and paperwork would have to be conducted up front. I believe this is probably the case, but see how a patient navigator could have been of great use to my mom in this situation?

She would not have been as overwhelmed and the patient navigator could have clearly explained what our options were. This is still just a small industry so I’m sure these services are not available in all areas but it is good to keep in mind if you are a caregiver facing major medical decisions regarding your loved one.

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