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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
Wandering around your city or town, have you ever seen ‘pop-up’ chalk boards inviting you to contribute your thoughts on an issue affecting us all? If you were asked what one thing you’d want before you die, what would it be? Travel to a dreamt-of place? Marry your beloved? See your grandchildren born? See Collingwood win the AFL Grand Final (go the ‘pies!)?
Chances are you’ll see a ‘Before I die, I want to…’ board somewhere (Before I Die website). It’s an initiative that encourages open dialogue about death with the hope that it will engender compassion for those in our community who are living with a life-limiting illness. It’s a bit like a bucket list, really.
Compassionate Communities is an approach to social change that aims to promote and integrate social approaches to dying, death and bereavement in the everyday lives of individuals and communities. It raises community awareness of these end-of-life issues – and participation in the care and support of dying people and their families. Building networks of care, mobilising communities to provide practical and emotional support in skilled and informed ways, and developing resilience are all elements of a compassionate community.
The Compassionate Communities approach is not random, nor is it easy. It’s a systematic way of transforming our communities, the services that support them, and the policies that direct them. It’s part of the Public Health Palliative Care approach, an international movement towards returning dying, death and bereavement to the community so that the business of dying is everyone’s business. Connections between communities and palliative care services are key to success – services have a nearness to death and dying that the community might not, and communities have the chance to co-create the care that is provided.
You can find out more about it at the Compassionate Communities Network website. The 5th International Public Health Palliative Care conference is being held in Canada in September and is an amazing opportunity to see how Compassionate Communities is being made real in communities all over the world. In Australia, a group of researchers led from Western Sydney University undertook a major study of caring networks. The report is entitled “End of Life at Home: Co-Creating an Ecology of Care”.
So, do a Google Image search on ‘before I die’ and you will see the amazing array of bucket list items, some deeply personal, others playful, some for self, some for others: ‘jump in a pool fully clothed’ ‘fix that sink’ ‘buy mum a car’ ‘go on a bus and get off at a random place’ ‘finish school’ ‘write a book’ ‘live to my potential’ ‘love’ ‘marry Joanna’. We can see so much of what it means to live in a compassionate community, surely?
What will you write?
Dr John Rosenberg, RN PhD MPCNA, is a Research Fellow at the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in End of Life Care.