Gary's Guidance: Self-Advocacy

September 2015

Throughout life and especially during the later years as one ages one may need the help of others to represent or advocate on their behalf. But what happens when someone does not have family, Power of Attorney/legal guardian, geriatric care manager or even any friends to turn too? Representing oneself becomes more difficult as we grow older due to factors involved with cognitive decline, physical isolation, and health related problems commonly found with the elderly. Still, senior citizens want to make decisions and remain in control of managing their affairs. Part of remaining independent involves self-choice and having one’s voice heard and respected while not being dismissed due to ageism. Here are some things to consider and do when being your own advocate:

1. Identify what your needs are and what you expect regarding a desired outcome.
2. Seek information to better understand the nature of a problem. The more information you have gives you the power to influence others.
3. Make use of the 5 – W’s: Who, What, Where, When, and Why? This simple problem solving method can add clarity to what needs to be done in representing yourself.
4. Avoid caving in to fear, procrastination, and negative self-talk that sounds like “I can’t do this.” Rather, engage in positive self-talk such as “I am assertive, and I am going to state my case because I can.”
5. Have a solution in mind to the problem or concern you are addressing. Better yet, be prepared to offer more than one solution that would be acceptable to you.
6. Being willing to compromise as getting something you want is better than getting nothing.

Gary Kozick, LCSW