Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Leslie’s story

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Leslie was referred by a family member as he was diagnosed to have cancer of the lungs and bowel. It was also recognised that he had moderate learning difficulties which affected him in making informed choices, he also struggled with reading, therefore found information hard to access. Initial contact was at his home to ensure that he felt able to voice his concerns in a safe and familiar environment. During the first meeting we were able to discuss all the various areas of his life, in order for me to ascertain any areas that the advocacy support could assist him in. Over the next couple of meetings we were able to establish that he was having difficulty in retaining the medical information that he was given via his monthly hospital consultant meetings. It was therefore agreed that I would attend and we would, prior to the meeting, write down any pending concerns or medical problems Leslie was experiencing.

Upon attending the appointment I became aware that Leslie’s nutritional calorie intake was a grave concern. We therefore agreed that I would assist him in exploring different types of liquid nutrition that he could take to enable his weight to remain fairly steady. Consequently until his health deteriorated considerably he was able to maintain his weight at a satisfactory level.

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Unfortunately due to the nature of Leslie’s illness, his cancer being untreatable and terminal his needs have been continuously changing. As an advocate I have been able to accompany him on his journey. I was able to assist him with acquiring walking aids and having modifications made to his property such as extra railing support along the stair case.

More recently sadly, Leslie has deteriorated considerably and his social isolation has meant that he has been unable to meet his basic care needs. As a result I was able to help him identify various care package options. He is now receiving a care package at home, and I am still supporting him with his numerous hospital appointments. As his needs evolve my advocacy support will change. We are now currently identifying accommodation options, looking at various care homes and discussing his wishes with regards to palliative and end of life plans.

This clearly has been a very challenging journey for Leslie, particularly as he has been socially isolated and felt very alone. Advocacy support has allowed him to voice his fears and concerns and crucially ensure that he understands the procedures and transitions which sadly are imminent. Although advocacy support hasn’t altered the eventuality it has ensured he maintained his personal dignity and had respect and independence through a difficult time.

Aneesah Bana – Cancer Advocate, ICANN

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Author: Marie McWilliams

OPAAL's National Development Officer

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