Changing lives for older people through access to advocacy
Cancer affects many older people.Did you know that there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of older people (aged 65 and over) living with cancer in the five years to 2015. That is more than 300,000.
Did you know there is somewhere to turn for advice and help for other situations and not only with issues surrounding a diagnosis of cancer. It is a reassuring thought.
As fellow finalists at the UK Blog Awards, I was keen to share the wonderful work of OPAAL, contacted them for more information and am now delighted to share this guest post with you.
Who are OPAAL UK?
We’re the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance (OPAAL) is the only UK based national organisation supporting independent advocacy services for older people.
What is advocacy?
Advocacy works to support older people to exercise their rights, express their views, make informed choices in all aspects of their lives and have their voice heard.
Why is advocacy important for older people?
Older people tell us that they often feel they are not listened to, that they are hurried into making decisions about important issues that really matter to them, and feel that their views don’t matter.
Around 3.5m people 65+ live alone. By 2030 there will be over 2 million people aged 65+ without children. Who supports older people who are unbefriended to explore their options when making critical decisions about health, care, housing or any of life’s major transitions? Around 2.9 million older people 65+ feel they have no one to turn to for help and support. For those who have loved ones to offer this support, these transitions are no less frightening, isolating or complex. Advocacy gives older people a voice, choice, and control.
Cancer, Older People, and Advocacy
Our Cancer, Older People, and Advocacy (COPA) service is a partnership programme between OPAAL and Macmillan Cancer Support. The service is available in 10 areas of England and 1 in Wales, funded by Macmillan and BIG Lottery.
We recruit, train and support peer volunteers to act as advocates for people aged 50+ who are affected by cancer. Peer advocates walk side by side, every step of the way, providing whatever support the older person needs. They aim to be the ‘voice’ of the older person, are non-judgemental and make sure those they support are heard and their views and opinions are acted upon.
Mike’s Story shows advocacy in action for an older person affected by cancer. Mike was in recovery from alcoholism and had just had a diagnosis of diabetes when he was diagnosed with cancer. He describes feeling terrified and disillusioned, sometimes suicidal. Mike’s peer advocate Bob has had cancer himself, he was “someone who had been there”. Bob helped Mike with a wide range of issues; helping to organise his paperwork, identifying pensions, speaking to HMRC and helping him to complete his tax form, encouraging him in his progress overcoming alcoholism.
Bob was there to reassure Mike about side effects of treatment, ensuring health professionals were made aware that Mike could feel claustrophobic in smaller spaces. At first, Bob represented Mike’s wishes and needs, later encouraging him to have the confidence to do these things for himself.
We’ve supported over 1,600 older people like Mike to date, putting them in contact with 216 well trained and supported volunteers like Bob.
To find out if the service is available in your area visit www.opaalcopa.org.uk or call the Macmillan Helpline on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm), and join the conversation on twitter @opaaluk #advocacyworks