Older adults with cancer face significant challenges in accessing and navigating health care in B.C. due to limited language skills, financial capacity and health conditions, as well as systemic discrimination related to age, ethnicity or language.
That’s the key finding from a new project led by UBC nursing assistant professor Dr. Kristen Haase, in collaboration with BC Cancer Agency medical oncologist Dr. Caroline Mariano and UBC nursing PhD trainee and BC Cancer nurse practitioner Bonnie Leung.
In a Q&A with the School of Nursing, Dr. Haase talks about these challenges and lays out a potential path forward for health care providers, educators and researchers.
What inspired you to put this study together?
When older adults are diagnosed with cancer, they commonly already have other illness that they are managing. This makes treating their cancer more complicated. It also makes navigating the health system more complicated because there are more practitioners involved. Our health and social support systems should be ready to assist older adults when they are diagnosed with cancer, but unfortunately, this is not often the case.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology – the leading body for cancer treatment globally – recommends specialized services that can assess older adults’ health and function. This information helps older adults and their caregivers get a full picture of how cancer treatment will affect them so that they can make informed choices about treatment. However, such services do not yet exist in B.C.
We want to change this. We spent the last year holding discussion groups and interviews across the province to understand what is working really well, and what can be improved. We talked to health care providers in cancer, primary care and geriatrics. And we also talked to older adults who had been diagnosed with cancer, their caregivers, and those working for community groups serving seniors and immigrant seniors.
Please visit the School of Nursing website to read the full story.
Through Strategy 16: Public Relevance, UBC is working to align our efforts more closely with priority issues in British Columbia and beyond, through dialogue and knowledge exchange.