Earlier this month, we held a successful Dying to Know Day Dinner which was the next step in the launch of our Compassionate Communities Project. Together with our partner, the GroundSwell Project, we are working to activate the first Compassionate Community in our region, starting in the Blue Mountains.
Compassionate Communities is an innovative approach to end-of-life care that recognises the importance of community networks, human connection, kindness and compassion to our overall health and wellbeing. A Compassionate Community is a care network that reconnects people to their community and helps support them in their last phase of their life. The aim of the dinner was to engage with local healthcare practitioners to strengthen their understanding of the power of informal support networks, and how they can harness these networks to build alternative pathways of support for patients.
We learn from our shared experiences, so the team took a creative approach to the dinner using art, story, culture and music to break down barriers and help our guests think differently about death.
Local artist, Emma Magenta, created artworks on the windows of the venue that were centred around love, compassion and the important people in our lives. Community Development Worker, (and artist) Niki Read, created dinner napkins with snippets of poetry, while of local musicians Soular Spill added to the atmosphere with their soulful music. All of these thought provoking touches helped set the scene and deepen the conversation.
Our guest speakers were insightful, sharing both their professional and personal experiences with death and community. Andrea Turner-Boys, CEO of Women with Altitude (WWA), an organisation that facilitates connections for women in business, spoke about the power of networks. Andrea gave examples of how her own WWA network have naturally developed Compassionate Communities to support WWA members at the end of their life.
Michelle Everett-Morgan, a Psychologist from Nepean Therapy Centre, spoke about the benefits of developing a death literate community. Michelle shared her own personal experiences of her mother-in-law’s death and emphasised the importance of Advance Care Planning.
Kerrie Noonan, Founder and Director of the GroundSwell Project, concluded the evening with an overview of how health professionals can respond to the growing call for greater choice at end-of-life, and how the integration of both formal and informal supports can improve people’s end-of -life experience.
Through these shared experiences, our guests left the evening with a clearer understanding about the Compassionate Communities Project, and what they can do to help increase death literacy, encourage Advance Care Planning and expand people’s choices at end-of-life.
The next step in this exciting project is the upcoming Blue Mountains:Our Compassionate City - Community Meeting taking place on Saturday 8 September in Katoomba. We invite everyone in the community with an interest in creating better, more connected end-of-life care, to attend this event.