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Getting Some Outside Help for That Conversation with the Hospital

Jeff Weinberg - September 25, 2017 12:10 PM

Suzanna Meyer was at her wit’s end.

Her husband, Jeremy Meyer, had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease that can abruptly cause cardiac failure. On paper, he was classified as “terminally ill” and prescribed a medicinal regimen that made him “fuzzy,” he told his wife. Annoyed, he eventually ceased taking the medication. And then the stroke hit.
Perhaps more devastating than the stroke itself was what it meant for Mr. Meyer’s health outlook: because he had a major health complication, he was removed from the waiting list for a heart transplant — what might have been his saving grace.

Ms. Meyer took up the mantle of caregiver. But she knew little about how to navigate the sometimes labyrinthine health care system. “At one point I realized they aren’t necessarily looking out for my husband’s best interest, but that he was costing them money and they just needed him out, and that was the point where I got scared,” she said.

A family friend, Jeff Weinberg, suggested the two grab a meal to talk about her husband’s situation. Mr. Weinberg had been in the health care industry for the better part of 25 years. He boasted two master’s degrees and had experience as a hospital administrator.

Mr. Weinberg, who charges clients a variable hourly rate depending on ability to pay, is a new breed of patient advocate, helping families navigate the complexities of the healthcare system. Geriatric care managers, social workers and nurses all serve as patient advocates. Mr. Weinberg’s professional experience gives him a different perspective on options that are available.

His company, Caregiver Champion, launched about four years ago. The advocacy includes educating his clients about what questions to ask their doctors; scheduling appointments; and accompanying patients in a family member’s stead.

He is technically the only employee of his Squirrel Hill company. But he enlists the aid of a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner and a physical therapist to help him parse individual client cases while he leans on his background as a hospital administrator to guide clients through the system.

He has the option of filing a complaint with the Department of Health, one of the paths of recourse available to folks who believe they’re receiving negligent care.

It’s a last resort, but one he said he nearly pursued when a client’s father was not receiving the exercise, or “active range of motion” he needed while in a local nursing home. The home argued that simple actions by the patient like feeding himself constituted limb exercise and, according to Mr. Weinberg, billed his client for completing that need.

Mr. Weinberg said his client elected to move her father to a different nursing home.

For Ms. Meyer’s husband, Mr. Weinberg attempted to convince the hospital to provide continued care despite his deteriorating condition. A compromise was reached: Mr. Weinberg found a hospice facility, where Mr. Meyer remained until he passed away in early 2016.

Ms. Meyer said Mr. Weinberg’s intervention “turned a really ugly situation into a beautiful ending for my husband.”
“He didn’t fight. It wasn’t adversarial. He just asked the right questions,” she added.

Mr. Weinberg said his company emphasizes easing the burden of caregiving for family members who find their time split between employment and taking care of a loved one.

“It’s so important that they learn to take care of themselves, because if they don’t, then they're not going to be able to take care of whoever they’re trying to take care of,” he said.

Besides working with individual clients, Caregiver Champion partners with corporations to provide educational seminars to help employees navigate the healthcare system. Mr. Weinberg said these seminars can range from focusing on retirement planning to understanding things like Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans benefits.

This article was originally published here - http://www.post-gazette.com/business/healthcare-business/2017/08/23/caregiver-champion-advocate-healthcare-sytem-jeff-weinberg/stories/201708100133

Jeff Weinberg, M.Ed, MPH, NHA, developed Senior Assistance, an advocacy agency, as a result of working more than 25 years with seniors, chronically disabled and their families. Senior Assistance helps families to get through the many layers of the bureaucratic maze by providing creative solutions when they need it the most. Jeff has a Master’s degrees in Counseling and Health Administration and is licensed as a Nursing Home Administrator in Pennsylvania and Florida. He is also Adjunct instructor for CCAC and Penn State University.

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