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Compassionate Communities

Compassionate community’s is an international movement that originated in Australia and it is based on the work of Dr. Allan Kellehear who introduced the concept in 1999.

Dr. Allan Kellehear is a medical and public health sociologist whose teaching, research, and practice interests focus upon death, dying, and end of life care. Originally from Sydney, Australia, he has previously held full professorships at universities in Australia, Japan, and the UK. Dr. Kellehear is widely recognized for the introduction and development of health promotion policies and practices for palliative care.

About Compassionate Communities

The concept of Compassionate Communities was originally created in Australia in 1999 by Dr. Allan Kellehear. Dr. Kellehear then took this movement to the UK were it has now spread globally and has a strong presence in Canada. He created these 13 charter items to address various areas of support; click here to learn more about the 13 charter items.

At it’s core, Compassionate Communities, works within various settings in the community, from neighbourhoods and businesses, to hospitals and long-term care homes. It gathers support for people with life-threatening and life limiting illnesses, their families and caregivers, and those who are grieving. Compassionate communities recognizes that caring for others during times of crisis and loss is a social responsibility not just a medical one. These community supports can take the form of physical, psychological, social, or spiritual support, and should come from all aspects of life.

Currently, illness, dying and death are considered medical events. However, when broken down only around 5% of a dying persons time is actually spent with the medical system. The other 95% is spent at home or the community, either alone or if they are lucky with family and friends. That 95% is where Compassionate communities focuses its support, shifting support for those dying or grieving from the medical system into the community.

Dr. Kellehear provides a great parallel to Compassionate Communities. He gives the example of the neighbourhood watch that was designed to reduce crime rates by having local police stations partner with citizens to monitor neighbourhoods. Rather than increasing the number of police stations or in our case long term care homes and community organizations which will not be possible to catch up with current needs, the community is mobilized to fill these gaps. In Thunder Bay we have the Zone watch program where the local police partner with community volunteers to identify neighbourhood crime and safety issues. The concept of mobilizing community support to meet unmet needs in this case is the same concept to supporting those who are dying, grieving, and caregiving. 

A successful Compassionate Community is one where:

The community is empowered to get involved with end-of-life events: more people getting involved to alleviate the burden on the healthcare system.

The community has better mental health and quality of life: reduced loneliness, increased emotional support, better health outcomes.

The community is better prepared for caregiving, dying, death, and grieving: rather than avoiding important conversations, people are confident they can face instances of crises and loss with grace.

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