This has been a recurring theme in the last two weeks on the blog- and twitter-sphere. While researching the Top Ten Caregiver Advocates and developing measurable variables to test for successful advocacy, I have been thinking a lot about what makes an “authentic” advocate. I was prompted to revisit the subject during WeGoHealth‘s Health Advocate TweetChat.
So how do we define a caregiver advocate? To start, the OED defines an advocate as a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy or a person who puts a case on someone else’s behalf. Caregivers are “built in” advocates for their care-recipients because they have their loved one’s health needs in mind all of the time. Caregiver self-awareness often paves the way for self-advocacy.
The Caregiver’s Survival Network is advocating that the proper resources, support and connections to be available at no cost to caregivers internationally. Yes, we’re attempting to resolve a huge problem in our health care system. But it starts with the smallest of actions. At least that’s how I see it. All of my friends who were previously unaware of the 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S. now have their ears to the ground and eyes on the lookout for the “invisible patient.” It starts with a friendly exchange: “What have you been up to?” and the following explanation of my work at The Caregiver’s Survival Network. Good old fashioned word of mouth.
Compiling the data on the Top Ten Online Caregiver Advocates gave me such incredible insight into the tangible results of online advocacy. It stimulates word-of-mouth to move faster and further. While there may be “legal and professional” definitions of advocacy, I believe anyone can be an advocate. Any Tweeter, Facebook poster, Pinner, Blogger, talker, writer, speaker… If we had to limit our definition of advocate to someone with a degree or certification, think of all of the causes we would smother before they caught fire, all of the advocates we would silence before they even found their voice. I choose to measure advocate “authenticity” by the passion in their voice and the dedication in their hearts.