Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

The negative spiral of ‘just coping’

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Jen Rimmer tells us about Dorset Macmillan Advocacy’s additional focus on carers of older people affected by cancer:

Supporting carers has become an integral part of the Dorset Macmillan Advocacy Project and we have secured funding from the local Clinical Commissioning Group to do just that. As a result of this we have been able to welcome experienced advocate Pauline Godwin to the team.

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What we are often finding when we meet a carer referred to the service is that even if the older person affected by cancer themselves is coping well with the support mechanisms that are in place for them, the carer may be struggling.


Finding yourself in the caring role can be a sudden and unexpected change in circumstances and along with the shift this may cause in a relationship, there are inevitably practical issues that demand attention. Navigating your way through unfamiliar territory can be daunting at the best of times but when you are tired and emotionally affected by what is happening, the task can seem unmanageable. Carers and their cared for person are often caught in a negative spiral of ‘just coping’ and not having the time or energy to understand what help and support may be available for them.

Pauline Goodwin

Pauline Goodwin

Gwyneth Brooks the Carers caseworker at Dorset County Hospital came to meet Dorset Macmillan Advocacy volunteers in June and deliver some training on supporting carers in Dorset.

Gwyneth highlighted that the framework for carer’s assessments has recently changed with the implementation of the Care Act to a nationally standardised system and Social Services now have a duty of care to inform carers of services available to them. Locally, we are fortunate that Dorset County Council have opted not to charge carers for the services available to them. Examples of carer’s services include a sitting service and the short break service.

Previously the assessment of carers was based upon the number of hours a person was caring per week. Under the new system a carer is assessed according to the impact the caring role has upon their lives.  This means that the eligibility criteria is now lower (i.e. a grown up child living apart from their parent but having a caring role will be more likely to be eligible now) but the impact must be evidenced.

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This is achieved using the Carer’s Assessment form which can be filled out by a health or social care professional or the carer can fill it out themselves. There is clearly an opportunity for us as advocates to help the carer complete this assessment in in the manner which will best reflect their needs and experience. The rationale behind the new form is that the assessment is based on finding solutions to an individual carer’s needs rather than simply allocating services. Carers should also be registered with their GP as such to ensure they receive the help and support they need for their own health needs.

We are engaging with carers regularly as part of the advocacy support for individuals but we are pleased to be able to offer a service that carers can access directly themselves.

Jen Rimmer, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy


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