03 Jun I became a peer advocate because having had cancer, I felt that I could be of help to other people.
Deb McGarrity, delivery partner AgeUK Northumberland’s paid advocate, gives us an insight into what it’s been like delivering the older people’s cancer advocacy service in Northumberland recently. In what is Volunteers Week, Deb also introduces us to Marion, an older person affected by cancer, who has become a peer volunteer advocate:
Since the end of last year the Age UK Northumberland Macmillan Cancer Advocacy and Older People project has steadily been receiving referrals, there have been 24 cases since December 2015.
Without a volunteer coordinator it has been a challenge to keep our volunteers engaged and supported, this has partly been achieved through a good relationship with local Macmillan who opened up their volunteer training schedule to our volunteers. Our volunteers have taken advantage of the Macmillan training by participating in training in Bereavement and Loss, Specialist Palliative Care, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Prostate Cancer.
Volunteers have also accompanied the paid advocate on visits and are slowly beginning to have their own cases. One volunteer, Marion Young has started working with a client who recently was given a terminal diagnosis. When I asked how she feels about being part of the project, Marion responded by saying:
“I became a peer advocate because having had cancer, I felt that I could be of help to other people. I am looking after my first client who has been given a terminal diagnosis. With the guidance of Deborah and the client’s permission I have written letters to the GP and Macmillan to support her with her request to be able to move nearer to her daughter. I am going with her to the hospice. I am meeting with her beforehand to note any questions that she has, giving her empowerment that enables her to understand what will happen.”
From my own point of view it has been great being able to include the volunteers in client case work. Not only are we utilising their experience to help our clients but I too am learning from them which is extending my expertise and informing my practice. I can see too that the clients also really appreciate having someone to support them who has also been affected by cancer.
Deborah McGarrity, AgeUK Northuberland