Compassionate Communities Conference 2016

Inspiration aplenty at Compassionate Communities Conference: Tackling Frailty and End of Life through Community Resilience – A Public Health Approach to Living Well.

Over 140 people flocked to the Everglades Hotel recently to hear world renowned Professor Allan Kellehear talk about Compassionate Communities and the need for a Public Health Approach to End of Life Care. Professor Kellehear kept his audience enthralled as he reminded them that “Health is everyone’s responsibility and this includes death, dying and end of life care. End of life care isn’t only about hospice and palliative care services. End of life care and death and dying are a social as well as a medical issue”.

The concept of Compassionate Communities was developed by Professor Allan Kellehear in his book Compassionate Cities. It recognises the role of communities in supporting people who are finding life difficult due to having chronic or end of life conditions to remain in their own home and to maintain links with their community. It aims to enable all of us to live well within our communities to the very end of our lives.

Delegates heard Dr Kathleen McLoughlin from Milford Care in Limerick, Paul Cronin from Severn Hospice in Shropshire and Linda Morris from Compassionate Communities – Reach Out in Derry/Londonderry speak about Compassionate Communities in action in their areas and the different ways in which it has been put into practice.

Linda Morris described how they had been inspired by what was happening in Limerick and Shropshire to set up a local Compassionate Communities- Reach Out pilot project. The project is based in the Waterside and is a partnership between Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group, Foyle Hospice, Hillcrest Trust and the GP practices based at the Waterside Health Centre. It is funded by the Western Local Commissioning Group through the End of Life stream of the Integrated Care Partnership. At its heart is a network of volunteers to provide weekly contact to people who have become isolated as a result of illness. It might be as simple as going for a cup of tea, enjoying a shared interest, doing a bit of shopping or a trip to the local community centre.

Karen Mullan, Manager of Hillcrest explained that “Hillcrest Trust is delighted to be part of Compassionate Communities and to be working in partnership with Foyle Hospice and Caw/Nelson Drive on this exciting project. We would like to praise the staff of Compassionate Communities and Foyle Hospice for hosting an excellent and informative conference in the City highlighting the benefits of Compassionate Communities. We are looking forward to the Top of the Hill becoming a very strong Compassionate Community with the support of our partners”.

Linda Watson, Manager Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group said “Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group would like to congratulate the staff of the Compassionate Communities project on their very successful conference. The event was well attended and the speakers very informative and gave a lot of food for thought. Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group are very proud to be part of this pilot programme which provides a vital service to older/vulnerable people within our community. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Foyle Hospice and Hillcrest Trust in the future.”

Dr McLoughlin spoke about how a public health approach makes sense.

“The majority of people living and eventually dying from advanced life limiting illnesses spend the greater part of their time at home being cared for and supported by family members, friends and neighbours”.

She talked about how difficult people find it to talk about death, dying and bereavement even in a society such as Ireland which is supportive of the recently bereaved and where ritual and remembrance are important. Sometimes people don’t know what to say or what to do.

Dr McLoughlin described the Compassionate Communities Project in Limerick which is an initiative of Milford Care Centre.

“The project is here to support people to think a little differently about death, to plan ahead, talk to others and to empower people to offer practical support within the community to those who may be living with advanced life limiting illness or facing loss. We believe that a small change in our attitude toward death can make a big difference to how we live”.

Paul Cronin talked about the CoCo project in Shropshire which came about when discussions with people living with long term illness revealed loneliness and lack of community transport as things that impact upon their quality of life and affects their carer as well. The aim of CoCo is to work in partnership with local communities and their general practice to develop a local supportive network for the most frail and vulnerable”.

He stressed that:

“It is not a service provided by an organisation but rather a community development supported by Severn Hospice working in partnership with local General Practices”.

Michael McCafferty, Chairman of Foyle Hospice Board of Trustees congratulated all who had contributed to the success of such a well -attended and insightful event, confirmed the importance of Compassionate Communities as an area of work for Foyle Hospice and wished the partners continued success.

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