Part IV COVID-19 Series: How our Members are Helping Patients through the Pandemic

June 25, 2020

Part 4: PASYKAF – Continuing their 24/7 hotline support and ensuring protective equipment for their palliative care nursing staff

Welcome to the next in our series of articles exploring the work of our Members through the pandemic. In this article we speak with Miranda Chrysostomou, Management Officer PASYKAF, The Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends.

Can you please tell us about your current living situation in Cyprus given the pandemic?

“After six weeks of strict lockdown we can now return back to normality. A different kind of normality.

Restrictions, which previously only permitted one excursion from our house per day and mandated shop closures except supermarkets and pharmacies, have lightened. We are now allowed to leave our homes up to 3 times a day.

We have limited the spread of coronavirus with just 920 cases and 17 fatalities amid a population of about 1.17 million. This is mainly attributed to measures such as a ban on large indoor gatherings that began on March 11 and prohibition of most incoming passenger flights from March 21. A curfew was imposed later in March.

Most businesses and schools are now open as are hotels. We are now urged to wear a facemask and gloves when we come in contact with other people and wash/disinfect our hands regularly.’’

And how has this been for the cancer patients your organisation supports?

“Due to the fact that cancers patients are more vulnerable to coronavirus, we can honestly say this has been a very difficult time for them.  Most of them were worried and isolated themselves completely which is very understandable.

Oncology clinics have had to minimize the number of people entering their premises so they had to move forward several patients’ appointments. We’ve had issues with therapies being cancelled/delayed because the drugs used for them could not be delivered in time from overseas.

As you know, time is valuable for cancer patients, they need to act immediately on cancer. We’ve had people that had their hopes completely lost because they couldn’t proceed with the therapies that could probably help them get better or prolong their life.’’

How have you been helping them?

“Coronavirus is having a huge impact on people living with cancer and their families. From introducing new support services, delivered over the phone or online, we are doing all we can to meet demand on our services.

We have updated our organisations’ online website with all the latest information and guidance regarding everything cancer patients need to know about the coronavirus. This involves guidance for people with cancer, people who have recovered from cancer and people who are supporting someone with cancer. Information includes the possible impact on their treatments, shielding advice, advice on coping with self-isolation and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Regarding our home nursing service, off course it is still running as usual but we’ve had to take some extra precautions to protect our staff and our patients. We now call the patient in advance before visiting them to make sure that they have not had any symptoms or came into contact with someone who was diagnosed with coronavirus. If this is the case then we immediately cancel the visit and we ask the patient to contact their Oncologist. Our nursing staff has received new guidelines by our doctor on how to administer care during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our organisation now offers confidential psychological support to patients and their loved ones through our Telephone Support Line. The line is manned by 10 psychologists and 4 social workers offering their support from Monday to Friday between hours 08:00-16:00.

Coronavirus tests can now be given to all cancer patients for free and whenever needed.

Is there any particular advice you would like to offer patients and carers currently?

“It’s important for patients and their carers to know what kind of support is available for them right now. We are always here to help and answer any questions they might have, in order to overcome their fears at this time.

It is also crucial to continue to lead a healthy lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic; this will enable patients to cope better during cancer treatment and the follow-up period. So it’s important to make sure they can access the food they need, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Several supermarkets have now started a home-delivery service and are prioritizing vulnerable people. To stay fit and healthy, cancer patients should take as much exercise as possible. This can be a challenge when confined at home, but they can take walks in their garden, walk up and down stairs or follow online exercise classes. Move around will help cancer patients stay strong and fit.

Remember to maintain their personal hygiene and contact their doctor or nurse if they have problems washing or bathing; they can provide them with advice to make these tasks easier.

It is very important that patients look after their mental health too during these challenging times. They should stay in regular contact with friends and family via phone, email, social media and video calls. They can also contact us if they feel they need additional emotional support from a psychotherapist or counsellor.

We will get through this very soon.’’

About PASYKAF during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Contact details:
Office situation: Reception open, services and management working remotely. People are advised to call for appointments before visiting and bring their own facemask.
Hotline numbers: +(357) 77 77 19 86

This is the final part in our series on our Member’s activities through the COVID-19 pandemic, you can also read:

Are you a cancer patient in another part of Europe in need of information and support? Please contact one of our local Member groups or read our general COVID-19 advice for digestive cancer patients.

Catie Young

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