Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

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Communication: It’s the name of the game!

Yesterday I took part in a Department of Health led webinar. Now a webinar, for those of you who’ve never heard of it, is when people log into their computers from across the country and take part in a presentation/learning event remotely. I had to access my computer then use my phone to call in so I could contribute verbally if necessary. Yesterday’s webinar was a learning event about Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) and how the voluntary sector could work with local authorities to get the voices of local people heard. Now that might sound quite dry but actually it was really interesting.

What was really, and unexpectedly, lovely about yesterday was that I could see the names of the others around the country who were also taking part and discovered that a very good friend of mine who lives over 250 miles away from me was also taking part. It made me feel really close to her. What struck me was that I was sitting working at home  and so was she. We laughed privately about the fact that we could work in our PJ’s if we wanted to and no-one would ever know. Personally I draw the line at not getting dressed but it is nice to work with your slippers on…

Working from home has many advantages but also has drawbacks and the main drawback is isolation; no-one to talk to. So to get involved in yesterday’s webinar was really nice as for 2 hours I had almost 100 people with me while I worked. That’s when I got to thinking about our cancer advocacy service.

Our project advocates support older people affected by cancer on an ongoing basis. They provide a link between the older person and the rest of the world, a bit like that webinar did for me yesterday. They reduce the isolation of the older person by being there for them and ensure that lines of communication are open and that, like me yesterday, they can “call in” to the advocacy service and thereby be heard.

It’s wonderful to be a small part of a service which gives so much and I look forward to seeing our project develop over time into an asset that no local community feels it can afford to be without. Oh, and that’s where the webinar comes in again since it gave me an opportunity to think about how we can get local cancer advocacy services involved in their own local Joint Strategic Needs Assessments.

Marie McWilliams, OPAAL