Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer


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An exciting night at the HSJ Awards

OPAAL was absolutely delighted some weeks ago to find out that the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme was shortlisted for an HSJ Awards (Health Service Journal) in the Supported Self Care category.

Wednesday last week, November 22nd, saw the awards evening in the Intercontinental Hotel at the O2 in London. I attended along with Bob and Maddy Smith, peer volunteer advocates and Kathleen Gillett, Macmillan project coordinator, all of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy. Also attending as a guest of NHS England was OPAAL Trustee and Vice Chair, Catherine Wood. NHS England, as sponsors of the Supported Self Care category award, hosted two tables and Catherine was seated at one of these and was very well placed centrally, near to the stage.

The night began with a bit of trauma for myself, Bob, Maddy and Kathleen. The Blackwall Tunnel near to the venue had been closed due to a road traffic accident. This led to major disruption on the roads for miles around the area. After an hour and fifty minutes in our cab for a journey which should have taken thirty, we arrived late and having missed the opening speeches. Fortunately after wolfing down our starters we caught up with every one else at our table. All had been nominated for awards although not in the same category as us.

Catherine, Maddy, Marie and Kathleen

Marie, Kathleen at the back with Bob and Maddy in front

Sir Lenny Henry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a lovely meal the awards started in earnest. Hosted by the wonderful Sir Lenny Henry, the excitement for us mounted and mounted. Our category was midway through the programme so we had a bit of time to wait to find out the result.

I was so hopeful that our name would be called out as winner. Being nominated and shortlisted was a real achievement but at OPAAL we were so keen that our wonderful peer volunteers and cancer champions be nationally recognised by this award.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. First Steps Derbyshire’s Online Befriending Service was the name called out rather than ours. Whilst disappointed, we applauded the winner and consoled ourselves that it genuinely was a massive achievement to be shortlisted and had gone a long way to raising the profile of advocacy on the national stage.

Here at OPAAL we see everyone involved in the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme as winners and we thank each and every one. All have made a difference to the lives of older people affected by cancer.

Marie McWilliams, Operations Manager, OPAAL

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Positive practice in mental health services

Here at OPAAL we’re absolutely delighted to report that the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme has been shortlisted for an award in the National Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards in the “Older people’s mental health and dementia” category. This will help us continue to raise the profile of advocacy and peer support.

The Positive Practice Mental Health Collaborative is a user led multi agency collaborative of seventy-five organisations, including  NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Police Forces, third sector providers, front line charities and service user groups. It aims to identify, and disseminate positive practice in mental health services by working together across organisations and sectors, to facilitate shared learning, and to raise the profile of mental health with politicians and policy makers.

Positive Practice is dedicated to providing a directory of positive practice in mental health services and the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme is now listed in this directory.

Having carried out its first service user focused assessment of a mental health service well over 20 years ago, and having been identifying and sharing positive practice for almost as long, the collaborative came to the conclusion many years ago that there is a ‘perfect mental health service’ out there, ‘it’s just not all in one place’. By developing this directory they intend to demonstrate this theory.

The directory also features positive practice examples featured in the pathways developed for NHS England by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health.

The full directory as it stands can be found here

The awards ceremony takes place on Thursday 12th October 2017.

Wish us luck!

Marie McWilliams, Operations Manager, OPAAL

 


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Thanking our volunteers in Dorset

We were delighted to be able to thank our volunteers around the time of Volunteers Week for the energy and enthusiasm they give to helping people affected by cancer in Dorset.  Staff from Dorset Macmillan Advocacy delivery partners Help and Care and Dorset Advocacy along with Macmillan Partnership Quality Lead Paula Bond and Macmillan Volunteer Services Manager Sam Hudspith joined the volunteers for a very informal cream tea.

The volunteers were then presented with some donated goodies as well as certificates of appreciation from OPAAL.  The garden at The Grove Hotel in Bournemouth, which is open to cancer patients and others with serious illness, was a perfect setting for the afternoon on what must have been the hottest day of the year.

Some of the group in a shady corner

Kathleen Gillett, Coordinator – Dorset Macmillan Advocacy


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My night at the UK Blog Awards

Kath Parson, OPAAL Chief Executive, tells us about her exciting night at the UK Blog Awards:

It began 24 hours beforehand wondering what to wear of course! The invitation said formal so long dress with all the trimmings, shoes, bag and jewellery to match.

Enjoying the evening

The event took place at the Westminster Park Plaza London in the shadow of Big Ben. I knew it would be a special night as the paparazzi were out in force clicking away at every gorgeous girl alighting from the fleet of taxi’s lining the entrance.

Once divested of coats we were directed to the huge ballroom three floors below street level. My first surprise the sheer number of people, around 500 guests mingling and networking amongst the many attractions provided by headline sponsors The Odeon. The second surprise was the average age of the guests, I definitely felt like an old lady as most people were in their late twenties early thirties. No doubt a reflection of those who drive social media today. I met many fantastic and inspiring people all keen to learn about our blog. I’m sure I’ll stay in touch with several.

The event was sponsored by Odeon

Wonderful hospitality, we were wined and dined like kings. Then came the main business of the event, the awards ceremony itself.

Opened by Gemma Newton, CEO, UK Blog Awards, Chrissie King, Online Influencer and Charly Lester, Head Judge we were told there were 2,400 entries, and 94,000 public votes. Entries were whittled down to a short list of 240 all read by no less than 42 judges across the dozen of more categories. For each category there were individual and company winners.

We were in the Health & Social Care category company section and up against stiff competition, seven amazing blogs all doing a wonderful job informing and supporting their constituency audiences.

We were in the Health & Social Care category company section

We didn’t win, but then I had not expected to. I am just so very proud of our partners and OPAAL staff that we had reached the final’s stage at all. We would not have a blog if the older people we support and our wonderful dedicated volunteers had not agreed to share their many inspiring stories with us, so my sincere thanks to all of you.

The winner in our category was Mentalmovement

I reserve a special mention for our Operations Manager Marie McWilliams who tirelessly manages our blog, well done Marie you can feel very proud of this achievement.

Finally I’d like to thank all those people that voted for us, without you we would not have reached the final. I’m already looking forward to UK Blog Awards 2018, so please keep those stories coming in.

Kath Parson, OPAAL Chief Executive


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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”.

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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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A very Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all of our readers and contributors.

We have great news to start off the New Year. As you may know we were shortlisted in November in the UK Blog Awards for this blog. Our entry is in the best Health and Social Care Blog category. OPAAL had to put out a big call to our members, stakeholders and friends encouraging them to help us through the initial public voting phase. We were up against some much larger organisations with a bigger social reach than us.

We must have secured a very strong number of votes because on Monday we received the news that we have been announced as a finalist, which means we eagerly await the judge’s vote later this Spring and in the meantime we have a new ‘finalist’ badge to display on our blog! We would also like to thank all of you who voted for us.

facebook-1-2It’s brilliant to have this recognition for our blog. We work tirelessly to secure new content to keep it fresh and our delivery partner projects work hard to make sure we have something new, interesting and timely to share.

This news will encourage us to keep writing; it’s great to be starting the new year on such a positive note!

We’re so happy to be showing the world the impact of independent peer advocacy and that #advocacyworks.

Marie McWilliams, OPAAL


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Facing Cancer Together: we’re demonstrating the power of independent advocacy

We’re really excited today to announce the publication, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, of our latest collection of older people’s cancer advocacy stories entitled Facing Cancer Together.

In 2014 we published Every Step of the Way, a set of patient stories which illustrated the need – and value – of peer advocacy services for older people living with cancer. In this, our second publication, we bring together a further twelve stories of overcoming struggle, loss and anxiety, illustrating a new reality of what older people living with cancer can and should experience.

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But these stories also speak to a broader societal truth, and contradict the common narrative that the pressure from an ageing population with increasingly complex needs is overwhelming our health and social care system. At the heart of that narrative is a prejudice that older people are somehow too needy, too frail, too dependent and a burden the rest of society is expected to carry. This kind of prejudice robs older people of voice, choice and control. Advocacy – such as in the stories contained in Facing Cancer Together – seeks to return them.

When we read stories like these, we aren’t just reading about the experiences of one older person with cancer; we’re also being gifted rich insight on the big challenges facing policymakers, commissioners and practitioners, such as how to deliver high quality, compassionate, person centred care that enables people to be equal partners in their care; and how to tackle marginalisation, social exclusion and uncertainty; and how to manage the impact of cancer
on family, or emotional health, or housing.

Those challenges are for us all, regardless of age, and the methods of addressing these challenges, by investing in peer advocacy and support, greater community engagement and creating the motivations of staff to involve patients in their own care have a net benefit for all of society.

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Stories are powerful not least because they have the capacity to tell us something about ourselves.
The twelve stories in Facing Cancer Together represent the wide range of experience that our advocacy programme
has encountered across 1500 plus cases over the past five years.

 

We hope that they most of all resonate as examples of the actual support available to provide reassurance, companionship, dignity and, most importantly of voice, choice and control.

We want to thank all of those who were willing to share their stories with us, and the many advocates involved in
the programme.

Jagtar Dhanda, Head of Inclusion Macmillan Cancer Support & Kath Parson Chief Executive OPAAL