Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer


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Statutory and voluntary sectors working together in Dorset

Katie Hunter, Dorset Cancer Partnership Cancer Services Coordinator at Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group has a wide remit which includes patient and public involvement.  Katie came to Help and Care at the invitation of Sue Newell, Wessex Voices Project Lead to meet Jo Lee and Kathleen Gillett the coordinators of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy having already met colleagues at Dorset Advocacy.

Katie explained Dorset Cancer Partnership’s plans for improving cancer services in the county and we went on to discuss how volunteer advocates and advocacy partners might be able to share their views.  Katie has already met with the chair of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy’s steering group, Cancer in Older People’s Development Group, and two peer volunteer advocates but will attend a future volunteer team meeting to hear more about why and how people affected by cancer are providing advocacy support and what they get out of it.

Kathleen and Jo suggested that volunteer advocates can often see immediate benefits of the help they are giving whereas taking action to improve cancer services can require a more long term view.  Katie will be able to ask the volunteers how they would like to participate in the newly developed local involvement opportunities.

L-R Katie Hunter, Jo Lee and Sue Newell

 

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Recognising volunteers as part of the cancer care team

Research and technological advances mean that new cancer treatments are continually coming on stream. This is good to know given that the number of people living with a cancer diagnosis in the UK is set to double from more than 2 million in 2010 to 4 million by 2030. But what about the people who actually help those affected by cancer, doctors and nurses for example. How is the cancer workforce keeping up with change and preparing for the future?

In February of this year Thinking Differently Macmillan’s vision for the future cancer workforce in England was published. In the Foreword Dr Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact, states: ‘We believe that the workforce needs to be equipped with the capacity, confidence and skills to identify and address holistic needs, to tailor follow-up care and support people to self-manage.’

The current challenges facing the cancer workforce include:

  • rising demand for services and increasing complexity – e.g. people living with multiple long term conditions
  • poor coordination and communication leading to lack of support for recovery

Macmillan calls on Health Education England and the NHS at national, regional and local level to work strategically to ensure people living with cancer experience well-coordinated continuity of care: ‘Our vision is for a workforce that can deliver holistic, patient-centred care and support. It is based on understanding the needs of people living with cancer and the access they need to other services that will contribute to their care.’

The report explains that ‘Delivering truly patient-centred care means ensuring that people are supported before, during and after treatment… Without the right workforce in place, they … may not have the support they need to optimise their quality of life after treatment. They may not always know who to contact for support nor how best to do so. We know they do not always have enough time to talk through all their concerns or be supported with non-clinical issues, such as financial support.’

Macmillan recognises that ‘Volunteers and people affected by cancer, including carers, also have an important part to play in the cancer care team’. My personal view is that highly trained professionals can fail to see the full potential of volunteers.  Peer volunteer advocates are entirely patient or person-centred in their approach as the very nature of advocacy demands that it is led by the service user or advocacy partner as we prefer to call them.   Volunteer advocates specialise in finding things out, sourcing additional support and facilitating ways to access that support. Volunteer advocates have time to listen and to build a trusting relationship.  Volunteer advocates will not offer clinical support but they will help to ensure people can understand information that they are given and feel ready to make informed choices about treatment and care as well as exploring practical and financial support needs.

The report goes on to say ‘Encouraging retention of staff will also be hugely important, as will looking at the potential of retired professionals as volunteers.’ In Dorset we have proven that staff who reach retirement age can be retained in the workforce by the offer of challenging and rewarding volunteer roles such as providing independent advocacy support. Time our Gift to You includes the stories of several former health professionals. Mike Goodman, retired Clinical Nurse Specialist from Dorset Macmillan Advocacy rightly observes: ‘After many years as a health professional you do build up a wealth of expertise and numerous medical contacts which it seems a waste to suddenly abandon just because you retire.’

The Macmillan report recommends next steps and advises that ‘Solutions will be unique to each local context and will require the input of a variety of local stakeholders, including Cancer Alliances, Sustainability & Transformation Plans and local NHS providers.’  We are trying to help colleagues in statutory services in Dorset to understand what trained peer volunteer advocates can do and how they are contributing to the skill mix of the cancer care workforce for the benefit of people affected by cancer locally.

Kathleen Gillett, Macmillan Project Coordinator, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy, Help & Care


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Advocacy services as part of the wider picture of patient involvement

The Dorset Macmillan Advocacy steering group (Cancer in Older People Development Group) met at Lewis Manning Hospice on a sunny day in Spring with the usual packed agenda.

A key discussion topic was how learning from the advocacy services can feed in to local service improvement. We noted how the team of peer advocates from Getting Heard in Oxfordshire had produced a report with suggestions which had been well received by the local Trust.

There were plenty of informed contributors:  Tracy Street, Macmillan Engagement Coordinator for Dorset attended to lead the discussion on user involvement (Tracy had been responsible for patient involvement at the Dorset Cancer Network);  Paula Bull who has joined the steering group has been a part of the Dorset Cancer Patient group for many years;  Lynn Cherrett, Lead Cancer Nurse at Poole Hospital is working closely with the new Dorset Cancer Partnership (DCP) (the local Cancer Alliance).  Together with the DCP chair Lynn is working to create a new Dorset Cancer Patient Experience Group.

Informal discussions after the meeting                                                                                                                   Front L to R Julie Cook, Acute Oncology Nurse, Dorset County Hospital, Rachael Brastock, Macmillan Psychological Support Lead, Genevieve Holmes, Macmillan Coordinator/ Senior Advocate for Dorset Macmillan Advocacy at Dorset Advocacy, Cait Allen, CEO Wessex Cancer Trust
Back L to R Graham Willetts and Charles Campion-Smith

It was agreed that the advocacy service will have a part to play in future local cancer service improvement. People affected by cancer (patients and carers) are steering the service, delivering the service and benefiting from the service.   They have unique insight into how people in Dorset are experiencing the current cancer care pathways which can be usefully added to the views of trained patient representatives.

Bob Smith, peer volunteer advocate and Paula Bull

The group also welcomed Cait Allen, Chief Executive of regional charity Wessex Cancer Trust as a guest. Cait gave an update on the development of services in Dorset including the Bournemouth Cancer Support Centre which offers drop in support.

Kathleen Gillett, Macmillan Project Coordinator, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy (Help & Care)

 

 

 

 


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As Volunteers Week draws to a close…

Our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme would never have achieved what it has without our amazing volunteers. They’ve supported us as peer volunteer advocates as well as local and national cancer champions.

Those who have been directly affected by cancer themselves have determined to give something back, to support others going thorough the same trauma and to help ensure older people don’t face their cancer journey alone.

Some of their stories are told in Time: our gift to you, our most recent publication. Today, as Volunteers’ Week draws to a close for another year, we’d like to share Claire’s story with you:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and despite lots of treatment – chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiotherapy, reconstructive surgery and targeted drug therapies – I learnt in 2015 that my cancer had spread and I am now living with secondary breast cancer.

Last year, I decided to volunteer as a peer advocate in Oxfordshire because I could see at first hand, as I was going through my treatment, that there were many people who were struggling to find their way through the healthcare system in our area and to access the support they needed. It seemed obvious to me that a person who has been treated for cancer is potentially in a very strong position to support another person going through the same or similar treatment and experience.

One of the older people affected by cancer that I’ve supported is Sally (not her real name). She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and was referred to Oxfordshire Advocacy by her specialist breast nurse. Sally lives alone, struggles to get out and had become very isolated and depressed. When I first met her, she talked often about the diagnosis being the “final straw” and I recognised many of the feelings that I had felt when I was first diagnosed: anger, fear, sadness, even despair.

In the first few weeks when I visited Sally at her home, we often would just talk and share experiences and I know that she really appreciated that someone had taken the time to sit and listen and talk. I knew that when you are first diagnosed with cancer you do get quite a long appointment slot with your consultant and your specialist nurse, but you are in a state of shock and you can’t really take things in, and you are certainly not able to talk through how you are feeling. You need lots of time to process what is happening to you and it is weeks later when you are ready to really think about what is happening to you.

Since then, I have been able to help Sally in a number of ways. For example, I contacted Breast Cancer Care, I knew how good they were from my own experience, and ordered a number of information leaflets for her – some on treatments she had been advised to have, specific information on lymphedema and some on other issues such as her benefits entitlement. Sally suffers from cataracts as well and so I made sure I ordered the information in large print so that she could read the text.

Sally had a specific issue with one of her drugs that was making her feel unwell – I recognised the issue because I had suffered something similar – so I printed some information from the Macmillan Cancer Support website. Sally doesn’t have a computer or access to the internet. I took it to her and read it through for her. I also helped her prepare some questions about this for her next GP appointment and as a result she was able to discuss the issue with her doctor and get the drug changed to minimise the side effects.

Most recently I was able to help Sally with her application for a one-off Macmillan support grant – she wanted to use the money to help with her heating oil. She had being finding it difficult to fill in the form and so she dictated to me what she wanted to say in her application and I was able to write it down for her and I could use my experience to help with the spellings of all the drugs she was taking! She said that receiving the money was very important to her as it eased her worries about putting the heating on in the winter.

I hope that I have managed to convey that working with Sally has also been very rewarding for me. Cancer treatment is often quite technical and complicated and over time you are forced to become quite an expert in the healthcare system and how to get support. I am really glad to be able to put my experience to good use.

Our final thought this Volunteers’ Week is the adage: “Volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.” So thank you to volunteers everywhere.


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Time: our gift to you

We’re absolutely delighted today to be launching our new book of volunteer stories from the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Programme. Telling 19 different stories of peer advocates and cancer champions, it’s called “Time: our gift to you”.

lo-res-cover-time-our-gift-to-you

We’ve spent lots of time on this blog telling you about the difference our volunteers make to the older people affected by cancer they support. We thought it was about time we gave those volunteers an opportunity to tell their own stories.

Prior to developing this new publication our peer volunteers told us some of the reasons they’ve chosen to become involved:

“It makes a real difference to those we support. It ticks lots of boxes for me, I wanted to continue to use skill, experience & knowledge to help others, to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

“I want to help people affected by cancer, and am happy to help people through the ‘cancer experience’. For me it’s all about putting something back, I was well cared for and I’m aware that a lot of other people are not so fortunate.”

“Because I believe I can make a real difference, I can help people practically & personally. I have a good idea of what people are going through. I can help them with their concerns or fears for the future. I enjoy being part of a team, and I enjoy the training offered to us all.”

“I feel I can relate to my advocacy partner very well due to my own experiences. I find it useful to have something in common with my partner in addition to the cancer. I am an empathetic person, a good listener and able to support others to express their concerns and worries.”

In addition to making a difference for others, Cancer, Older People and Advocacy volunteers also tell us they themselves benefit from their volunteering role.

You can read and download all 19 stories and find out why cancer advocacy volunteering is making such a difference by clicking here

Marie McWilliams, OPAAL


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The other “C” word

Juanita Williams of Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) project is thinking “Christmas”:

I have to admit I am a massive fan of the Christmas period. For me it’s all about friends and family and getting together having fun. Having said that I am not averse to giving and receiving presents particularly if they are given with love.

Imagine how delighted I was to hear from one our Local Cancer Champions Board members, Paul Litchfield, last week to tell me about some Christmas hampers that were being distributed by Macmillan Cancer Support from one of their partners Poundland.

The Partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and Poundland started in May 2009 originally for one year only. Following the success of Year one where the £100k target was smashed to raise £180k and following a staff vote, the partnership continued into Year two. Each year (sometime between January and March) Macmillan go through the staff vote process and have won this each time. It was then recommended that Poundland remain supporting Macmillan until they had achieved £1 million. This was reached in March 2014 and it was then decided that the partnership would continue.

SCOPA-logo

They are now into the eighth year (9th by May 2017) and are on a drive to crack £3 million by the end of 2016. Macmillan Cancer Support recently received a huge donation from the sales of carrier bags (£672k). Poundland Staff have also taken part in numerous fundraising events including London Marathon, National 3 Peaks, Land’s End to John O’Groats, Dragon Boat races and a couple are hoping to do Mount Kilimanjaro in 2017. Poundland suppliers are always keen to support (especially with Christmas hampers) and with sales promotions around World’s Biggest Coffee Morning time in September.

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Paul was contacted by Lesia at Macmillan as she had a number of Christmas hampers to donate to his patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  Paul is a valued member of our Local Cancer Champions Board and knows very well the amazing work our volunteers do with their partners here at Sandwell Advocacy on the Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy project so when he realised he would have a number of surplus hampers he asked if it would be possible for us to distribute the remaining hampers to Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy partners.

After a few phone calls, Lesia confirmed it would be appropriate for us to share the hampers and we made arrangements to go over and collect them.  We have a new volunteer David, who to date has not been matched with anyone.  He is chomping at the bit to get started and was really happy to help with the collection and delivery of hampers.

Juanita

Juanita

Imagine the delight when our volunteers delivered the hampers to their partners.  They were full of all kinds of items from tea towels to Santa hats, chocolate bars to chewy sweets and crisps to candles. One of our partners is nursing her husband back to health as he has recently lost over a stone in weight.  She commented that the tins of soups and chocolates would certainly go some way to fattening him up for Christmas!

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It’s fair to say there were a few tears of joy shed in Sandwell! The Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy team would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas and thank all of the staff and customers at Poundland for their kindness and generosity to people who are affected by cancer. Let’s hope they break the £3m target and continue this amazing show of generosity.

Juanita Williams, Volunteer coordinator.


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The Relate Macmillan Counselling Service is now available in the West Midlands

Macmillan Cancer Support has formed a partnership with Relate West Midlands to offer free relationship counselling to anyone affected by cancer. It’s a regional project for the West Midlands and is open to residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and South Staffordshire for 3 years (up to April 2019).  Here the coordinator tells us about the service:

I’m Eileen Clews and I’d like to introduce myself as the Coordinator of this new service. It’s a job I’m delighted to have because cancer can have a huge impact on families and friendships.

When we talk about relationships, it’s not just about your other half. It can also be about brothers, sisters, mums, dads, and carers. The people around us make a huge difference to how happy we are, and strong relationships can help us get through life’s tough challenges, like cancer. 

Eileen Clews

Eileen Clews

Some of the people who come to see us are single and don’t have a lot of family, we work with them on strengthening the support they do have around them.  Others are partners or relatives who find an hour a week to talk to a counsellor about their concerns very helpful. The majority of those we see are patients or ex-patients as we are there to help whether the diagnosis was recent or some years ago.

When you come to see a counsellor the first appointment is always a consultation. This is to find out a bit about the issues and ensure we are the right people to be seeing you at this time.  After this there are 7 further sessions available.

At the moment we are offering appointments at Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Solihull Relate offices but if we get enough demand there is the possibility of using our sites in Dudley and Oldbury.  Unfortunately, we can’t come and see people in their own home but we can offer Telephone Counselling if people can’t get to us.

While many of the referrals to the Relate Macmillan Counselling Service have come through the NHS, you can also refer yourself.  To do that or simply find out more about what we offer contact me on 0121 643 1638 or by email macmillan@relatebirmingham.co.uk

Very soon after I was in post, Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) came forward to tell me about what they do and recruit me onto their Steering Group! I am very happy to be part of this and am impressed with the work they are doing in Sandwell.  This is an area I have worked in before when I ran a project for The People’s Orchestra in West Brom (not a musical one, that would not have gone well). While the geographical area for this new counselling service covers most of the West Midlands, I am hoping that we will get some referrals from Sandwell and surrounding areas.

If you know of anyone who might benefit from some relationship counselling, who has been affected by cancer, please do tell them about the Relate Macmillan Counselling Service.

There are further details on our website

http://relatebirmingham.co.uk/our-services/the-relate-macmillan-counselling-service/