Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer


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Macmillan Cancer Support is a national charity set up 10 years ago to support people affected by cancer. In 1911, a young man named Douglas Macmillan watched his father die of cancer. His father’s pain and suffering moved Douglas so much, he founded the ‘Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer’. Douglas wanted advice and information to be provided to all people with cancer, homes for patients at low or no cost, and voluntary nurses to attend to patients in their own homes. Today much of Douglas’ legacy lives on. We are still a source of support for people living with cancer today and we are a force for improving cancer care.

It’s not only patients who live with cancer, we also help carers, families and communities|. We guide people through the system, supporting them every step of the way. We fund nurses and other specialist health care professionals and build cancer care centres. But we give so much more than medical help. We provide practical, medical and financial support and push for better cancer care.

Macmillan’s ambition is to reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer and to inspire millions of others to do the same.

It’s a huge goal. After all, more than one in three people will get cancer at some point in their lives. With treatments improving and the population ageing, more people are living with the illness than ever before – two million and counting. Reaching and supporting all of them will be a challenge, but we know our team can do it.

People living with cancer embark on a traumatic journey into the unknown; where they are faced with intricate information about their treatment and care, have to navigate themselves through a complex system, whilst making speedy decisions about their treatment choices and rights. They often tell us that their experience of accessing health and social care services can often be summed up as: confusing, scary, ‘feeling alone’, ‘feeling isolated’ and ‘feeling powerless’. These experiences are even more common for socially excluded communities accessing health and social care services.

Giving people more choice within the system is seen as a means by which people can begin to improve and personalise the quality of care they receive. But benefiting from increased ‘choice’ might not be as easy to assure, unless some support is put in place to create a level playing field, so that everyone can get the best results from the system.

Macmillan wants to develop a UK wide Advocacy and Informed Choice cancer pathway. The pathway will support socially excluded communities navigate complex health and social care systems through dedicated advocacy support. This work focuses on the ‘personalisation’ agenda and will facilitate better decision making. As part of this work, we hope a Health and Social Care advocacy model will be implemented across the UK to support socially excluded communities make informed choices about the care and treatment on offer and evaluate the appropriateness of these based on their own personal circumstances.

Author: kathparson

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

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