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J Psychosoc Oncol. 2014;32(4):396-412. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2014.917141.

Is it helpful to give older people with cancer the same chance at rehabilitation as older general medical patients?

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a Department of Social Work, St. Vincent's Hospital , Melbourne , Australia.


Although the complexity of age combined with a cancer diagnosis can result in unmet supportive care needs there are seldom resources to assess or address such needs for older people with cancer (OPWC). The purpose of this project was to trial a service to improve the care for OPWC through (1) an expanded supportive care screening process and (2) capacity building of subacute ambulatory care services (SACS) staff to increase referrals to community-based rehabilitation.


Collaboration between allied health (AH) staff at an inner city general hospital with a large cancer service, a cancer specialist hospital, and a SACS service in Melbourne, Australia, developed an AH geriatric screening assessment (GSA) tool. Parallel to this process training was provided to SACS staff in relation to working with OPWC. Although close to one half (44%) of SACS staff who participated in this program (n = 22) had over 6 years' experience, 32% had not worked with OPWC. Prior to training, 81% did not feel confident in their knowledge about working with this cohort. After their training 72% were more confident about normal aging and implications for care of OPWC. Of the 491 patients screened, 80% were older than age 65, however, only 25 resided in the SACS catchment area. More than one third of these did not have clear rehabilitation needs, and the remainder were not referred due to ongoing medical issues. Less than one half of the patients in the catchment area were discussed in a Multi-disciplinary Meeting (MDM) but all were referred to allied health and assessed using the GSA. Although this project did not result in referrals of OPWC to SACS the training program for SACS staff was a success and allied health assessments were improved to include GSA factors. The complexity of care for OPWC was further highlighted through interviews with staff involved with the study.


allied health collaboration; ambulatory care for cancer patients; older people with cancer; rehabilitation for older cancer patients; service planning

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