TEMPLE — A family care advocate can do a lot to help patients take control of their own medical care, reduce hospital stays and avoid admission into a nursing home.

The Center for Caregiver Excellence will offer a 40-hour certified family care advocate course July 14-18 at 2180 N. Main, Belton.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, a branch of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, awarded a grant to Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education to develop the class with the goal of reducing the number of hospital readmissions, said Thomas Wilson, director of the Center for Caregiver Excellence in Belton.

The Center of Care Giver Excellence in Belton was selected as a trial site for the class and has offered the course twice.

During that time suggestions were made to improve curriculum.

“You train people who already work with seniors and have experience in home care and medical care to serve as advocates and assist individuals to successfully navigate the medical system and take control of their chronic medical conditions, to avoid complications and readmission into the hospital,” Wilson said.

Family care advocacy is a relatively new field where the advocate works with the family and helps them maneuver through the medical system, Wilson said. It also empowers clients to manage their health care better.

Advocates are taught communications skills that make it possible to serve as a go-between for the family and the doctor to make sure all of the health care needs of the client are being met. If the client is capable and competent, the skills are taught to that person.

If a client has early stage dementia and the family lives some distance away, the advocate might attend doctors’ appointments with the client and keep the family informed about what’s going on, Wilson said.

Peggy Naugle will be taking the class. Naugle works for Harden Healthcare and is a care transition intervention coach, working in conjunction with the Area Agency on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Center, area hospitals and senior care centers.

“It’s going to give me more in-depth information and tools on how to deal with families, especially the family and the client,” Naugle said.

It’s a process that can be used to remind the family that the client still has rights, she said.

“We should do everything to make sure the client can do what they want,” Naugle said.

The advocate can be a mediator between the client and family and the establishment, she said.

Advocates are taught some of the most common reasons for hospital readmission, including congestive heart failure, pneumonia, anxiety, depression, diabetes and wound care infection.

Students learn listening techniques and a system called Stoplight that simplifies the way to evaluate a medical condition and the appropriate response. It uses green, yellow and red prompts to determine if everything is working well, a physician needs to be called, or a trip to the emergency department is called for.

“If someone with congestive heart failure has a five-pound weight gain overnight, there’s likely no need to go to the hospital, but a phone call to the physician is warranted,” Wilson said.

However, if a heart failure patient gains 10 pounds overnight, is having trouble breathing and coughing a lot, that pushes the problem into red and a doctor needs to be seen, either in the office or in the ER.

“The goal is take action if the individual is heading toward the red and avoid that trip to the hospital,” he said.

The family care advocate not only goes to bat for the client, but teaches that individual to advocate for themselves.

The class will probably be offered two to three times a year, Wilson said.

The cost is $300 and tuition assistance is available, but must be submitted by Tuesday.

For information, call 254-770-2355.

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