Groundswell behind doing dying differently
WITH Australia's ageing population set to double by 2050, The GroundSwell Project is advocating for local communities to bind together and become more involved in helping each other deal with the end-of-life stages of community members and their loved ones.
"Death is often over-medicalised and revolves around institutions; leaving out the resources families and friends offer and the value they add to the process,” said Holly Rankin-Smith, GroundSwell Project's Compassionate Communities national lead.
Compassionate Communities (ComCom) is a global initiative started in the 1990s by Professor Allan Kellehear.
The approach champions community involvement around the social issues that surround end of life and helps minimise the stigma attached to the conversation about death.
The GroundSwell Project initiated the National Compassionate Communities Forum and the www.comcomhub.com website, in an attempt to further the growth potential for the movement in Australia.
"Too many Australians lack the choice, knowledge and decision-making power around their end of life and for those they care about,” CEO Jessie Williams said.
"Too often we hear of negative repercussions for people when they don't feel empowered.”
The GroundSwell Project is currently integrating the Compassionate Communities framework with nine communities around Australia.
One of these projects is The Blue Mountains' Willing Villagers initiative.
This initiative aims to promote the idea that end of life is not the sole responsibility of healthcare professionals and providers but could be, and often is, a community mission.
The Villagers ("neighbours” in the Blue Mountains) have the support to reach out to their own networks to heighten the care for those who are less connected and need the extra compassion.
"It inspires increased tolerance and wider conversations in schools, businesses, community services, local government and social groups to normalise end of life instead of shying away from it and treating it like a forbidden topic,” Compassionate Communities local lead Niki Read said.
The Willing Villagers program identifies and enables people who tend to naturally build strong connections, create and solidify relationships, and are in the know about local community events and supports.
The program is closely linked to the one-on-one work taking place with GPs and small group initiatives that help with social connectedness, expanded choice and awareness about death and dying and end of life practices.
The program's activity has been funded by Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network (NBMPHN) and is the first of its kind in Australia.