Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer


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Emotional support needs are growing

What information and support needs matter most to people affected by cancer? Today Kathleen Gillett of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy, (DMA) tells us about changing needs and a greater requirement for emotional support:

Cancer Information and Support Services (CISS) are changing – at least that is the finding of a recent study of the Macmillan CISS which has involved a partnership with the Mental Health Foundation.  A workshop at last autumn’s Macmillan Professionals Conference presented the findings of research into the role of provision of information and support.  Macmillan CISS services are very varied with some operated by teams of staff and volunteers in large purpose built facilities, often on hospital sites, and others provided by a single part time worker.

Dorset Macmillan GPs Dr Paul Barker and Dr Simon Pennel with Kathleen Gillett of DMA

Dorset Macmillan GPs Dr Paul Barker and Dr Simon Pennel with Kathleen Gillett of DMA

The trend has been for people affected by cancer to be less in need of information and more in need of emotional support. A YouGov survey found that 83% of patients said that ‘being listened to’ is the most important thing.  If people are seeking more emotional support how are the CISS services reflecting this change and how are the service providers (staff and volunteers) themselves enabled to give this support without a negative impact on themselves?  Answers to these points continue to be developed by a working group of Information Managers within Macmillan.

Kathleen Gillett

Kathleen Gillett

Discussions during the workshop revealed a range of interpretations as to what constitutes emotional support and how to offer it.  A weekly coffee morning style drop in could offer low level psychological support in the view of one participant from a community palliative care team.  Ensuring that ‘all the patients have my phone number’ was seen by a nurse as being a way of providing emotional support. Another participant noted that patients with identified needs may sometimes decline a referral to psychological support because of unfamiliarity with the term and fear of the word ‘psychological’.

I made sure to explain to the participants of my discussion group the way in which peer volunteer advocacy can provide low level and ongoing emotional support. Not only can advocacy partners ventilate on occasion and be sure of being listened to but they can build a trusting relationship over time with their volunteer and know that they will not be judged as they share their worries and feelings.

Kathleen Gillett, Macmillan Project Coordinator, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy


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A day in the life of……..a peer volunteer advocate

Our thanks to Jill Wallace, who is a peer volunteer advocate with programme partner Advocacy in Barnet, for the following enlightening blog post:

So irritating, I have woken up so early as usual; the habit of waking as if I am going to work never seems to stop.  Priority is to feed my cat Izzie and have my first of many cups of tea and read my book before the newspaper is delivered.

Jill

Jill

There is an advocacy support meeting today which I am looking forward to as there will be quite a few new volunteers attending. I think it is such a great opportunity for the new volunteers to meet other advocates and have the opportunity to listen to the variety of work we carry out. We have a speaker at each monthly meeting and try to book other organisations working in Barnet; the information can be so useful to people that turn to Advocacy in Barnet (AiB) for support.

Very interesting support meeting ; it was very rewarding chatting to the new volunteers during our coffee break to hear that they felt relieved and happy at the level of support available to them at all times.  Today’s speaker will be of great interest to some of our clients; a family business that can offer bespoke meals delivered as and when required at a very reasonable price.

barnet logo

I have arranged an initial visit accompanied by Georgia, a trainee Social Worker working with AiB as part of her training. As the meeting was from 10 – 12 am we have plenty of time for a nice lunch and chat together before our visit at 2pm at Finchley Memorial Hospital. So far I am really enjoying my day! Spent lunch with Georgia discussing how much she had enjoyed and learned from working with AiB. Hearing how this had helped her as she was coming to the end of her training was very enlightening.

We visited our client Mrs A, age 90, at Finchley Memorial Hospital.  After explaining the support AiB could offer, and obtaining signed authority to act on her behalf, Mrs A spoke of the concerns she had regarding where she would live once discharged from hospital as she was aware that she was physically unable to live independently. Happily we were able to point out that Mrs A did have choices and advocacy would be happy to liaise with all the professionals involved to ensure that her opinions and decisions are listened to.  We discussed with Mrs. A the action we would be taking on her behalf to ensure they met with her approval.

Georgia had taken notes during the meeting which ended at 3.15pm; we spent 15 minutes discussing Mrs  A’s case.

Arrived home just after 4pm having had a very varied day, bit tired but pleased.

Jill Wallace, peer volunteer advocate, Advocacy in Barnet


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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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My cancer journey

Our thanks to Rod, who shares his story with us below:

Hello my name is Rod and I have recovered from cancer. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was a bit of a surprise but when my wife told me that my left testicle felt like a walnut I thought I’d better get this checked out.

I had surgery to remove the testicle, a very quick operation by the way, and it only took a day before I was walking around again. What I found most difficult to deal with was waiting to find out, I found that more difficult than the treatment. I eventually went to see the consultant and he informed me that the testicle was cancerous and that I would have to undergo a course of treatment. The treatment made me feel sick all of the time and after the first session I got back home and threw up! They prescribed me a course of anti sickness tablets but they made it worse! In all honesty I wasn’t scared about having cancer, my friends were more worried than I was. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t happy about having cancer, but I couldn’t change it, I just had to live with it.

Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that how you live your life has to end. Friends tried to wrap me up in cotton wool and protect me. I was a bit physically limited in what I could do (feeling weak all the time) but I wouldn’t let it stop me from going out and enjoying myself.

The consultant said that is was possible that the cancer could spread through my lymphatic system so the course of treatment was shortish but aggressive. What surprised me the most was still being able to have a physical relationship with my wife, which resulted in the birth of our twins, one of each, I was dead chuffed.

A while later I thought something was wrong again, as I was having constant diarrhoea. Consequently I had a endoscopy, which found nothing, and then a colonoscopy, where various polyps were removed. When I next saw the consultant he informed me that they were in the early stages of change. This time I was a bit worried, as this is what my father had died from. As it turns out I was fortunate, as this was caught early and very recently I received the all clear.

 

rod-blog-photo

Rod

My volunteering

I am currently unemployed and signed off until April 2017. As a consequence I have plenty of time to spare. I was looking through the doit.org website and came across the peer advocate position, with Sefton Pensioners Advocacy. Certainly when my father was diagnosed with cancer there seemed little or no help or support, which really hadn’t changed that much when I was diagnosed.  I felt that through my own cancer journey and other members of my family I had something to offer in terms of support and guidance.

I have had two clients so far and they have very different stories. Although they are my clients I prefer to just think of them as people that I am supporting. They have both been unique, facing different issues and challenges. One client has already recovered from one form of cancer, only to find out that she has another. There are other complications as well, mostly to do with chronic pain, which she is having treatment for. The main issue this lady has is with mobility, as she had no blue badge she found it difficult to get around as she was limited to where she could park. I successfully applied for her blue badge, which has completely changed things for her, she can now drive to the local village and park outside the supermarket to do her shopping. She is really, really pleased with this as it has given her a greater sense of freedom. Her details were forwarded to the DWP and now she and her husband both receive attendance allowance. Now they can afford to have the house cleaned and garden maintained, which is very important to them both.

My second client has been completely different. He was diagnosed with lung cancer, which had spread to his brain and his diagnosis was terminal. His eyesight was also failing. His behaviour was challenging at times but a lot of this was sheer and utter frustration at not being able to express himself fully. I first visited him in hospital, with a colleague, and his behaviour was challenging. To be fair he had been in hospital for the best part of a month. Eventually he was discharged and he returned home and I was able to support him in terms of getting there, making sure a hospital bed was installed (he had been sleeping on the floor) and ensuring food was delivered (thank you Foodbank). However this only lasted one night and he was then readmitted to hospital. He was then reassessed and admitted to a nursing home. He was much happier with this as he had the space of the whole lower ground floor and a greater sense of freedom. I was able to support him in terms of getting more clothes and taking him to his property, to help him sort through his important documents and things.

He was initially worried about his funeral and also getting in contact with his estranged daughter. On investigation it became apparent that he already had a funeral plan. I helped him to make contact with his daughter again and also arranged for him to have regular communion. During the days before his death he deteriorated drastically, not communicating at all. As he was on morphine every three hours this was hardly surprising. Although I knew he had terminal cancer I still found it a shock when his nursing home informed me that he had died at 6:30am that morning. There were things that I still wanted to guide him with. I have an immense feeling of frustration that I was not able to help as much as I could, but sometimes things just work out that way. The final thing I could do for him was to make sure his daughter was aware of his final wishes and thus I made sure to communicate these to her.

I attended his funeral to pay my last respects.SPAC

Advocacy for me so far has been, challenging, frustrating but ultimately rewarding and will continue to be so.

Rod, Sefton Pensioners’ Advocacy Centre


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Our cancer journey

Today Bec Hoare from Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme delivery partner Getting Heard (formerly Oxfordshire Advocacy) explains about an exciting new report by peer advocates called “Our Cancer Journey” and a film featuring Linda and Rosie:

Over the last year or so, a number of our Peer Advocates, who are also members of our Local Cancer Champions Board, have got together to share their experiences as patients receiving treatment within the Oxford University Hospitals Trust.

They have produced a report that encapsulates some of their feedback, comments and thoughts about their own experiences and those of their clients. This has led to a number of recommendations for changes to certain aspects of some hospital services, ranging from facilities and practical matters within hospital waiting rooms to issues around car-parking. They have also considered the important area of informed consent and the ways in which patients are given and receive information.

Getting Heard logo

The report has now been shared with senior staff within the Oxford Hospitals, and has been very positively received, with a real readiness to work together to address the recommendations. You can access the report by clicking here

To accompany the report there is a short film clip of one of the Peer Advocates who is also a Cancer Older People and Advocacy client, and a contributor to the report, discussing with her Advocate the very positive impact of advocacy in her own situation. You can watch the clip of “Linda and Rosie” by clicking on the film below:

 

We very much hope you find the report and film clip helpful and illuminating, as well as challenging.

Bec Hoare, Getting Heard


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Linking with local befriending services in Bournemouth

The team from Dorset Macmillan Advocacy at Help and Care, Jo Lee, Senior Advocate and Kathleen Gillett, Volunteer Coordinator, recently shared challenges and solutions with colleagues from local volunteer befriending services at The Grove Hotel in Bournemouth (a retreat for cancer patients and those with serious illness) at the invitation of Anita Rigler from Macmillan Caring Locally.

Volunteer advocacy and volunteer befriending schemes are both models of peer support although they differ in several important aspects and the scope of advocacy support is, I would argue, considerably wider.  The mechanics of providing a good experience for volunteers through good practice in recruiting and training, matching and retaining are however very similar.  For both roles volunteers require highly developed listening skills and an awareness of the importance of the boundaries of the role. A good discussion was held on supporting volunteers when advocacy partnerships or befriending matches are ended.

Grove network 2

L to R Carol Stevens of Faithworks Wessex – Compass Project, Anita Rigler of Macmillan Caring Locally, Jo Lee, Macmillan Senior Advocate at Help and Care, Jan Childs of Christchurch Angels, Claire Bridges of Dorset Mind

Having a good understanding of the differences in our services will enable us to signpost and refer on to the most appropriate source of support. We are opening our next volunteer induction training day to the befriending coordinators to give them an indepth understanding of the scope of peer advocacy. The new networking group plans to meet twice a year.

Kathleen Gillett, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy

 


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A Bristol perspective…

Ben Sansum from delivery partners AgeUK Bristol gives us his take on what delivering a Cancer, Older People and Advocacy service has been like so far…

The Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project is a serious piece of work, which often involves working with people in very difficult situations. Despite this one of the joys of the project so far has been how keen different organisations are to partner with us at Age UK Bristol to make sure that the project reaches those older people who are most in need of help and support.Age UK Bristol Logo RGB

From the beginning we have been very lucky to have significant help from our local Macmillan Cancer Support services. At a regional level, the Regional Involvement Coordinator, Tracey Street, has been invaluable in introducing us to other parts of Macmillan. Closer to the front-line we have developed a very good working relationship with several Macmillan services that work directly with the public. The coordinator for our local Macmillan ‘Buddies’ scheme, Piers Cardiff, sits on our Local Cancer Champions Board, and has been great at identifying training opportunities for us, as well as referring ‘Buddies’ clients who need more in-depth advocacy to us for us to help. Through Piers we have been introduced to the staff and volunteers at the Macmillan Wellbeing Centre at Southmead Hospital, which directly led to us recruiting our first volunteer who has actually committed to doing the training and becoming an advocate.

BHOC Voice magazine

 

Between them Tracey and Piers have helped spread the word about our project to the huge range of Macmillan services across the city, including the CAB/Macmillan Welfare Advice service, and the Cancer Information & Support Centre at the Bristol Haematology & Oncology Centre (BHOC). These links have led to us having a large article in the BHOC ‘Voice’ magazine, which will be circulated among patients and staff for the next six months, giving us a very high profile among those people most likely to need the support of our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project.

 

 

Beyond Macmillan we are building very useful partnerships with all kinds of organisations, from the social services department in the local authority to the human resources department at Bristol University. Most pleasingly we are starting to build a good rapport with a range of NHS services, including district nurses and home visitors, and the Long-Term Conditions Team at one of our largest inner-city health centres. It is always encouraging to meet with hard-pressed, time-poor professionals working on the most difficult cases, who still find time to meet with us because they think it will be beneficial for many of their patients.

Ben Sansum

Ben Sansum

 

 

Partnership working has a cumulative effect – the more you do it, to more word spreads, the more other people and organisations want to talk to you. It has proved key in the work of the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project in Bristol so far, and we hope it continues to develop.

Ben Sansum, AgeUK Bristol