Being an advocate for someone you love requires you to be passionate; about them, about their cause, and about your desire to boldly speak up for them when your help is needed. That passion brings the purpose and drive to do whatever it takes to protect them, to help them, and to be sure that they are being cared for in the proper way. That’s how I became an advocate for my husband Steve who was diagnosed nine years ago with Alzheimer’s disease when he was just 59 years old.
On that day, I promised him that he would never walk this journey alone, that I would be with him every step of the way. I’m passionate about my love for him and my promise to be with him so he would always know he was never alone.
When we were separated by the COVID lockdowns in 2019, I was no longer able to fulfill that promise, and the love and passion I had for him was the motivation for me to boldly speak up. I was worried. I was concerned, and I had something to say that needed to be heard by the politicians that were making the rules that isolated my husband. That worry, concern and passion were my driving force to overcome fear and hesitancy to tell our story and ask everyone I could think of for help — and it worked.
As the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months, I knew I had to get to him before it was too late, before he no longer knew me, so I started telling our story to anyone who would listen: local, state and federal officials, reporters, friends that may know the Governor, tagging people on social media, anything and everything I could think of. Those actions led to a dishwashing job at my husband’s memory care center and that dishwashing job got the Governor’s attention. He listened when I boldly spoke up, appointed me to a Special Task Force to safely reopen long-term care, and loved ones across Florida were able to get back to those they loved.
Your advocacy story will be different. Your loved one may be a child, a parent or even a friend who may need you, but the passion and love you feel to protect them, to stand by their side so they’re not alone, can be what drives you to boldly speak up so their voice can be heard.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Educate yourself so that you advocate from a position of strength.
- Know your subject matter so that your words have power because you are confident in your position.
- Learn who the decision makers are so you can work your way to the top as quickly as possible.
- Make a list of everyone you know who can help and don’t be afraid to ask for it. The worst that could happen is they say no, but they can’t say yes until you ask.
- Find others in the same situation and join forces. Voices together are better than voices alone.
- Be persistent. There will be days that you hit wall after wall but you never know if tomorrow’s the day you get the answers you’re looking for.
- Be polite and respectful. There may come a time that you’ll need to make a more forceful argument but always start with honey.
- Always remember your why. For me, it was my promise to Steve, that he would never walk a day without me. I had to get back to him. I promised.
- Never give up. Our advocacy efforts are not always successful but we’ll always know we did everything in our power to try. And when all is said and done, that can be enough to look back with no regrets.
I’ve discovered through a lifetime of caregiving that being an advocate for someone who needs us is extremely rewarding. We boldly speak up for others because we love them. We feel a passion for caring for them, but we get an amazing gift in return. We receive the gift of peace. The peace of mind that we fulfilled a promise or stood by the side of someone who was important to us. The gift of knowing we weren’t afraid to boldly speak up when a louder voice was needed. When all is said and done, that peace can be a true blessing to you and a gift that will always be yours to keep.
Mary S. Daniel is a Caregiver, Advocate and Speaker. Follow her bold advocacy for her husband Steve on her Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/marysdaniel/