Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

National Cancer Champions view.

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Advocacy on the Wards

I have been interested in independent advocacy for older people following my experience of my mother’s admission to hospital five years ago. She had a massive stroke and was unable to communicate her needs.

As a nurse one would think it would have been easy as I have good knowledge of how the NHS works and what is expected. However, when you are faced with a close relative being seriously ill that is not the case. You are anxious and distressed and you need someone by your side to interpret and clarify what is happening. I was fortunate because my husband, who also understands the NHS well, was my rock. I do wonder though how an older person, with no experience of the NHS, would cope if their spouse was admitted to hospital. 

From my experience, not only with my mother, but also three other elderly relatives who required NHS care, it saddens me that sometimes older people are not treated with the respect they deserve. When in hospital they sometimes fail to receive the most appropriate treatment and care that is available. They, and their relatives are often denied access to information that would help them make the most appropriate decision for the circumstances in which they find themselves. More worryingly, they are often denied access to vital treatment, which is unacceptable. This is why the services of an independent advocacy is required.

It is enormously satisfying, therefore, to see the older people living with cancer project providing invaluable support to older people and their relatives who are affected by cancer. And, who better to provide that support than older people who have had similar experiences themselves. It is evident that the older people who have received support have really appreciated having someone to talk to and to help them gain the confidence to negotiate their treatment and care, and to manage the wider impact of cancer on their lives.. It has also become evident that many of the advocates who have been recruited, whilst sometimes finding it challenging, have gained great satisfaction from their experience.

Monica Dennis
National Cancer Champions Board

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Author: kathparson

Chief Executive of Older People's Advocacy Alliance (UK)

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