good life, good death, good grief

Unleashing Compassion Conference 2019

Communities innovating and supporting through death, dying and bereavement

A Scottish Compassionate Communities Network event, run by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief.

160 delegates attended this conference on 2nd May 2019 in Glasgow, exploring practical approaches for people and organisations wanting to build compassion in their own community relating to deteriorating health, death, dying and bereavement.

Keynote Speaker: Dame Barbara Monroe

Drawing on 40 years experience as a social worker, and 14 years as Chief Executive of St Christopher’s Hospice, Barbara provided a thought-provoking exploration of some of the current issues and challenges facing those wishing to ‘unleash’ the compassion within themselves and their communities.

Plenary Sessions

Most of the day was dedicated to sharing a variety of work taking place in Scotland. Topics included:

  • Compassionate Inverclyde: What happened when Inverclyde decided to make itself into a 'compassionate community'? People from the project shared their experiences, including reflections on how to get started, and some of the initiatives that have worked well, including Back Home Boxes and No-one Dies Alone.
  • Pushing up the Daises: Pushing Up The Daisies started as the response of a group of women in Moray to their experiences of death and dying. It has grown into a Scotland wide charity network that provides opportunities for people to learn how to care for the body of a loved one at home after their death. Kate Clark, one of the founders, reflected on the practicalities of establishing, running and promoting Pushing up the Daisies.
  • Food Train: Food Train began in Dumfries in 1995 following a community survey of older people that found many of them struggling with their weekly grocery shopping. Food Train is now a thriving multi award winning charity supporting older people in 7 local authority areas in Scotland. Michelle Carruthers MBE, Chief Executive of Food Train reflected on the the development of Food Train and some of the lessons they've learned.
  • Helping Hands: Helping Hands is a volunteer befriending and support service delivered by Highland Hospice throughout areas of the Highlands. It provides social and practical support in an informal way.Susan Smith, Service Manager shared her reflections on some of the practicalities, challenges and benefits of the project.
  • Threshold Choirs: The goal of Threshold Choirs is to bring ease and comfort to those at the thresholds of living and dying. They believe that a calm and focused presence at the bedside, with gentle voices, simple songs, and sincere kindness, can be soothing and reassuring to clients, family, and caregivers alike. Almut Brandl from the Moray Threshold Choir explained more about the ethos, aims and activities of Threshold Choirs. The brand new (and still forming) Glasgow Threshold Choir will gave a brief demonstration.

The conference also launched two new national initiatives:

Break-out sessions

Delegates chose from one of four break-out sessions:

Breakout A: Needs at the time of death

Pushing up the Daisies is a Scotland wide charity network that provides opportunities for people to learn how to care for the body of a loved one at home after their death. Kate Clark, founder member of Pushing up the Daisies led this session, exploring “needs at the time of death”, including laws, practicalities, different people’s needs, and current tradition and practice.

Breakout B: The Truacanta Project - a new project to support communities to take local action

Launching this May, the The Truacanta Project aims to support communities who are interested in taking local action to improve people’s experiences of death, dying, loss and care. Community groups and organisations have been invited express an interest in being part of the project, and successful applicants will receive dedicated community development support for their local project. This break-out session provided more information about the project and how to get involved.

Breakout C: End of Life Aid Skills for Everyone (EASE)

The Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care is developing a course for members of the public to enable people to be more comfortable and confident supporting family/community members with issues they face during dying, death and bereavement. This session provided more information about the aims, structure and content of the of the course, how it will be delivered, and opportunities to get involved in testing and facilitating the course.

Breakout D: Listening and talking

This session will explored some simple tips that can enable us all to feel more confident and comfortable around sensitive topics.

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