There are many types of advocates, and I would venture to say that each person who reads this article is an advocate—for a person, a belief, or a cause—or has benefitted from help, support, advice, or guidance that someone else has provided.
Family caregivers are one type of advocate. You may have heard former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s famous quote, “There are only four kinds of people in the world—those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”
Caregivers often put a loved one’s needs before their own, and frequently advocate on their behalf for services. They are the backbone of care for older people throughout our country.
Mentors are advocates. Most of us had someone in our life—often a family member, teacher, or supervisor—who showed us the ropes (an interesting idiom that dates back to sailing ships and their complicated rigging). And many of us have had the joy of helping a younger person learn how to do something that has set them on a path toward productivity.
Legal advocates include attorneys at law as well as people who receive powers of attorney for a loved one or serve as a guardian ad litem for a young person.
Case managers—like those with Aging and Disability Services (ADS), the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County, and with the community-based organizations with which ADS subcontracts—are advocates for their clients, most of whom live with low income and multiple activities of daily living they are unable to perform without help. The professional caregivers who provide regular in-home care are advocates for their clients.
Community advocates focus on the needs of groups of people—although the stories they gather and share about individuals help illustrate need. The advocates who serve on the Seattle-King County Advisory Council for Aging & Disability Services focus on the needs of older people, adults with disabilities, caregivers, and the Aging Network that provides services and supports. We educate and advocate one-on-one, through forums, and through collective action such as lobby days before elected officials.
Aging and Disability Services leaders, planners, and contract specialists advocate by developing and administering effective programs that serve the same population, with emphasis on equity and access for all people in need, including people of color, people who do not speak English (regardless of citizenship), and people who identify as LGBTQIA+2S.
Advocacy matters! In the case of the Aging Network, in which I hope you see yourself in some shape or form, advocacy occurs when:
- You share with family, friends, neighbors, and professionals (who may not know) that help is available. People living anywhere in King County can contact Community Living Connections (toll-free 844-348-5464) to get connected to the help related to aging, disability, or caregiving, when and where it is needed. Professional advocates can connect you with services that you or a loved one need.
- You connect with the people who represent you in elected office—federal, state, and local lawmakers who are advocates for their constituents. See the Washington State Legislature’s District Finder to find your district plus federal and state elected representatives, and also the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County They Represent You guide for city, county, school board, port, and other representatives.
- You share your story or describe what you’ve seen others experience in a message to lawmakers about needed services. An easy way to do that at the state level is via the toll-free Legislative Hotline (800-562-6000). At every level, e-mail works.
Lawmakers have access to data and analyses of issues, but don’t always know the magnitude of a problem in their own district. Stories help bring data and analyses to life. In a world with competing demands for time and money, stories help prioritize resources. Every one of us has a story about how we were drawn to Aging Network issues, why we continue to care, and for whom we care.
Advocacy matters, and you are an advocate. You make a difference to your family, friends, and community.
Contributor Dick Woo chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
Mark Your Calendars
Following are virtual events (online or phone meetings) and holidays in which ADS Advisory Council members will participate this month:
- General Election Day: Tuesday, November 2. Completed ballots must be returned no later than 8 p.m.
- Close to Home—Chief Seattle Club: Thursday, November 4 (10:30–11:30 a.m.), online and phone options. Presenters include Virgil Wade, deputy director of the Chief Seattle Club. To log on at event time, visit bit.ly/AgeFriendlyLive (real-time captions in English and six other languages) or Facebook Live (English-only captions).
- Veterans Day: Veterans Day is Thursday, November 11. Aging and Disability Services offices will be closed this day. For information about local Veterans Day events leading up to the national holiday, visit our online calendar.
- ADS Advisory Council: Friday, November 12 (12 noon–1:30 p.m.). Presenters from Triangle Associates will discuss the work of the Tax Structure Work Group that is tasked with gathering feedback from taxpayers and businesses about restructuring Washington state’s tax system. They will present background information about the current tax structure; explain different scenarios for changing the tax structure to improve fairness, adequacy, stability, and transparency; and answer questions and hear opinions of meeting participants. To receive the meeting link, e-mail Santhosh@seattle.gov.
- Mayor’s Council on African American Elders: Friday, November 19 (2:00–3:30 p.m.) online only. To receive the meeting link, e-mail Karen.Winston@seattle.gov in advance.
- Age Friendly Seattle Civic Coffee Hour—Safe and Thriving Communities: Thursday, November 18 (10:30–11:30 a.m.), online and phone options. Presenters include Rex Brown, director of the Safe and Thriving Communities division of the Seattle Human Services Department. To log on at event time, visit bit.ly/AgeFriendlyLive (real-time captions in English and six other languages) or Facebook Live (English-only captions).
- 2021 Legacy of Love African American Caregiver Forum: Saturday, November 13 (12 noon–2 p.m.). This online event is free and open to all caregivers.
- Thanksgiving: City and County offices are closed on Thanksgiving Day and the following day.
For more local Aging Network events, click here.