A few weeks ago, we posted a new story on patient advocates, describing how they might work on your side to get you or a loved one needed medical care and to fight the healthcare bureaucracy should you encounter erroneous and outrageous billing. That article also appears in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of our print magazine, which subscribers will receive soon.

During the coronavirus pandemic, patient advocates can offer vital assistance to the families of those who are hospitalized or locked down in senior communities.

Last week, we spoke with Barbara Abruzzo, RN, a patient advocate who runs Livingwell Care Navigation, in New York City. She told us families of hospitalized Covid-19 patients—or patient advocates they hire—should do the following:

Establish essential communications links so loved ones can get information from hospital staff about the patient’s condition, complications, progress, and prognosis. This requires a healthcare proxy, which the patient must sign to allow sharing of private medical information with designated people. Without one, unless you’re the legal spouse of the patient, or the parent of a minor patient, nurses and doctors will not give you more than minimal information, to preserve the patient’s confidentiality. Abruzzo recommends forms offered by nonprofit Five Wishes, which sells packets of downloadable legal proxies and living wills (for $5).

Virtually visit a patient who is in isolation. If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, or didn’t take one to the hospital, arrange for one.

If feasible, get your loved one out of a nursing home or assisted living community. Seniors are vulnerable to this disease, and the virus is proving difficult to control within senior residence communities. When coronavirus cases started being diagnosed at one Queens, N.Y., skilled nursing facility where the sister of one of her clients lived, Abruzzo transferred the 60-year-old stroke victim to the patient’s own home and hired a registered nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and round-the-clock home health aides, all of which were managed by Abruzzo.

Look out for billing errors. Some patient advocates specialize in helping clients with their medical bills. Hopefully, billing snafus won’t happen for Covid-19 patients: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act waives co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance, pre-approval, or other medical management requirements for coronavirus testing and treatment, those who are diagnosed with the disease shouldn’t see any bills for medical care they received to treat it.