Blog Post 2020

Why it’s important to advocate for yourself or your loved ones

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By VHA
Man sits in doctor's office with his doctor while wearing a face mask

Canada’s health care system can feel complex if you have multiple chronic conditions to take care of. Clients and their families may feel overwhelmed and possibly fearful to ask questions about their care plans. Or worse, they may not speak up if they do not receive proper care or have a complaints.

It is very important to advocate for yourself or your loved one and encourage open conversations with your health care professionals. There are many benefits including: increased safety, improved health outcomes, saved time and money, increased engagement between you and your health care professionals, and of course it helps people understand what they must do to provide the best care for you!

How do I advocate for myself as a patient?

Ask questions if you do not understand. Some examples could be:

  • What is my health problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why do I need to do this?

Who needs to ask these questions? You do! It is your right to ask!

Everyone has questions about their health. You are not the only one who sometimes finds things confusing. Ask questions to understand how to get better and how to take care. 

What if I ask and I still don’t understand? 

Say, “This is new to me. Please explain again.” Don’t be embarrassed if you still don’t understand. Ask more questions if you want to. Repeat back instructions to make sure it is what your healthcare provider said. When possible, have a family member or friend accompany you to appointments. They can:

  • Remind you what to say
  • Take notes and get information
  • Help you understand your health conditions or health concerns
  • Focus on lifelong learning

Are there any online resources I can read to learn more about patient advocacy?

  • It’s Safe to Ask: It’s Safe to Ask encourages patients and families to request the information they need in order to become active participants in their care. It includes easy-to-read materials for patients. Healthcare providers can also use this information with patients and families.
  • How to push for answers when talking with health service providers: An article by Caregiver Exchange which provides helpful things to keep in mind when talking with health care providers and advocating for yourself.
  • When you’re not heard as a caregiver, persist: Another article by Caregiver Exchange which shares the story of how an individual persisted about their health care challenges to ensure she was heard by her health care professionals.
  • How to make a complaint that gets heard: Tips on how to make a complaint about your care in Ontario when dealing with multiple organizations and institutions. This article offers some questions to help patients remember important details before putting in an official complaint as well.