Today sees the start of Dying Matters Week (9 – 15 May 2016). The week aims to encourage people to talk openly about dying, death and bereavement. Conversations around end of life can be difficult so we asked Tina Smith, who recently became the Macmillan Benefits Manager to tell us how the Macmillan service helps people affected by cancer during a very difficult time.
My name is Tina Smith and I’ve been a Macmillan professional for six years. I have been a benefit adviser for the Neath Port Talbot area for five years.
I recently became Benefits Manager . My role is to help develop services further to enable Macmillan to reach as many people as possible who are affected by a cancer diagnosis.
At Macmillan, it is important that patients receive appropriate advice for whatever point
they are with their cancer. Ideally patients and their families should have advice and information at a much earlier point so that they are able to access benefits enabling them to cope with any increased costs and/or loss of income due to their diagnosis and treatment.
There are some difficult conversations around end of life, but it is important that both the patient and their family’s plan for the time ahead- often it is at crisis point that people seek advice.
Unfortunately when advice is sought at crisis point it can make a difficult situation more complicated.
For example, if earlier advice is available to someone with a terminal diagnosis benefits can be claimed and processed quickly under Special Rules and paid promptly. Equally – early intervention means that benefit issues can be explained properly and plans put in place to ensure that families are more prepared and able to cope better.
There are often issues with regard to payments for funerals and how the family will have the ability to pay. It can be a requirement of the funeral director that a deposit is taken beforehand.
It is important for families to access help quickly. If they are eligible for help through the benefits system, there is a three month deadline and whilst the benefits system provides some assistance with the cost of a funeral, it does not cover its full cost.
It has been highlighted that the escalation in funeral costs means that bereaved families may face debt as a consequence. In my role I would attempt to access grants from other sources to help counter these problems.
It is with this in mind that Macmillan Advice Services provide advice and support not only for the person with the cancer diagnosis but also to ensure that their families have the support they need to help them through this difficult time.
You can download End of life: a guide – a booklet for people in their final stages of life, and their carers, here.
You can download After Someone Dies: coping with bereavement here.
This website from Dying Matters Awareness Month has lots of information and advice to help you.
If you have any questions about cancer talk to our Support Line on 0808 808 0000 (open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm) or visit our website www.macmillan.org.uk for information and support.