Greetings again, this time from sunny (rainy) Hackney!
We've had an incredible week, brains exploding with insights and inspiration from the people and organisations we've been lucky to meet over here. I will update on Scotland now and our final few days soon.
At time of our last blog, we had just left St Giles Hospice and were on our way to meet Professor Allan Kellehear at Bradford University. We spent an evening chatting all things Compassionate Communities and Compassionate Cities, how it's growing around the world and the different challenges being faced (check out all the places this movement has taken off here). As you may know, Professor Kellehear pioneered the public health approach to palliative care in Australia in the 90's and has been pivotal in seeing this movement take off around the world. We were lucky enough to pick his brain and grab an interview with him on facebook live, if you missed it you can watch it here.
We then drove up to Scotland for a conference in Glasgow run by The Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care called Everyday Compassion. The conference, set in a lovely old church space, was to launch a recent report of current palliative care titled The Road Less Lonely. We heard from a range of speakers from academics to GP's to a musician and committed practitioners from all over the UK. Kerrie talked about GroundSwell and shared insights from our progress with different ComCom and death literacy initiatives.
Here's a brief recount of some of the speakers and stand out points for me:
Prof Allan Kellehear opened the conference. Successful public health initiatives need partnerships to refine ideas and offer different insights. He used the analogy of the development of the ATM which was originally designed much higher, at eye level which completely failed to take into account accessibility for people in wheelchairs. He discussed that 95% of the time for the dying and bereaved is spent away from the health system, at home, with friends and family. What are is the health sector doing about that 95%? Latest research shows that our dialogue around grief is wrong. We do not grieve in stages, in fact grief stays with us forever. If this is the case, what are our forever policies?
Rebecca Patterson from the Scottish partnership of Palliative Care talked a bit about the report, the general themes and findings of the report. She too spoke of the importance of partnerships in this work and of not replicating but seeing what else already exists. She talked about the IKEA effect; where one places a higher, disproportionate value on the product or initiative they create. This has come up again and again over here and it's really insightful in thinking about future community initiatives and programs - how do we amplify and add value to things that already exist in the community rather than constantly starting from scratch?
Dr Euan Paterson gave a great talk about his work in low socio economic regions of Scotland and the fact that the average age of death is 47. His talk was a call to arms, that we cannot leave these more invisible members of the community behind in this movement. The inequality gap is wider now than it has ever been.
Dr Libby Sallnow shared the insights of her recent PhD which was an evaluation of the Compassionate Neighbours project based out of St Joseph's Hospice. I will write on this in more detail in s future blog as we spent a day with the St Joseph's crew and learnt a lot about this project - inspiring!
Bonnie Tompkins is the National ComCom Lead (like me!) in Canada. Obviously I have heard A LOT about Bonnie so it was really great to meet her. She gave a great talk updating on the growth of the ComCom movement in Canada and the resources and toolkits they have developed along the way. Bonnie and I caught up the next day for a chat on facebook live, she shared a lot about what challenges to expect and how to face them. If you haven't seen it, catch it here.
Alison Bunce is the compassionate community lead for Inverclyde in Scotland. She's seen huge success up there and it was great hearing from someone working on the ground, not so much an academic perspective. This project has been running for a year and works with a community with the population of 79,000 and has no budget - it's all about passionate citizens wanting to make a difference. She really advocated for an assets based evolutionary project that shifts and changes in response to the community needs. There was no blueprint plan they had to stick to, no arduous lists of objectives to achieve, the success comes from being active where and when the community identifies the need. Two projects in particular have been really impactful:
No One Dies Alone - community members offer to sit with someone who is dying (if they want it) when they don't have any family around or to offer their family a break. This has been a huge relief for not only the dying but for the nurses too who are freed up to continue their work, knowing their patients have someone with them.
Back Home Box - The community identified the gap of care for people who live alone when they went home from hospital. The decided to rally and provide a care pack to take home. It contains all the basic essentials to make a hot meal and a cuppa when coming home from the hospital; bread, milk, welcome home cards (made by local school kids), knotted lap blankets. Most of the recipients are over 75.
The 3 core values for Compassionate Inverclyde are:
- Compassion - acts of kindness
- Help - say yes to help
- Ordinary people helping ordinary people
After the conference we travelled to Edinburgh where we met with the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and were treated to some proper Scottish sweets and snacks!
They are a small, passionate team and do great work and contribute to policy development in Scotland. One of the initiatives they have started is a festival called To Absent Friends, I liked this because it is a bit guerilla - the branding is minimal, there is intentionally not a strong sense of ownership from the Partnership, it is A People's Festival of Storytelling and Rememberence.' It's a great example of engaging everyday people who might never go to an event about death or dying, but could totally connect over remembering someone they love who has died. I'm a big fan of ritual so I was completely won over by this. You can check it out here.
After Scotland we meandered down the coast towards London headed for St Nicholoas Hospice, St Joseph's Hospice and then down to Sommerset to check out Frome.
More on that soon!
Holly (and Kez!)