World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPCD) is a unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world. It was established in 2005 and it has become one of palliative care’s most significant global days. Each year a different theme is chosen to emphasise an important aspect of palliative care. Dr Stephen R Connor, PhD, Executive Director Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) tells us more about WHPCD 2023 and their call to action.
This year as we celebrate WHPCD we want to highlight the important connection between two movements. One is the hospice and palliative care movement and the other the compassionate communities movement. Movements are important in our societies and reflect how people rise up to respond to important problems that need to be addressed. The hospice movement began in the 1960’s when medical care of the dying was seen as de-humanised and only focused on cure rather than care. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross opened the door to talking about death, dying, and bereavement in her book On Death & Dying and Dame Cicely Saunders founded St. Christopher’s Hospice near London. Likewise, several worldwide initiatives have sprung up in recent times to address the deterioration of community life and lack of connection with one another. These include the Charter for Compassion, dementia friendly, and age friendly cities.
One of these initiatives is the compassionate communities movement that seeks to improve how we care for the dying and bereaved in our communities. The idea is to create extra layers of support for those with serious illness and those experiencing bereavement. Professor Alan Kelleher originated the idea of creating compassionate communities worldwide and the home for this initiative is the organisation Public Health and Palliative Care International (PHPCI). WHPCA and PHPCI have joined forces to amplify both movements since there is such common ground for both.
If you have a hospice or palliative care program in a community that has taken steps to become an organised compassionate community, you have doubled the effect of both. It becomes much easier to care for people with serious illness and their families because you have more resources in place to support caregivers and to help people to stay in their own homes when very ill if they wish to, instead of being in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions. There is a natural synergy.
In order to become a compassionate community there are specific steps suggested to take in the Compassionate Cities Charter (and you don’t have to be a city to do this – it can be a village or small town initiative too). For example, through the local governance you would agree to implement thirteen social changes including things like having policies and dedicated groups that address death, dying, loss, and care in schools, places of worship, workplaces, nursing homes and so forth.
I would hope that every community becomes a compassionate community. It’s an antidote to the alienation and polarisation that is happening in too many places in our societies and makes the delivery of hospice and palliative care and bereavement support much more effective, truly meeting the needs of patients and those close to them.
Please be sure to celebrate World Hospice & Palliative Care Day this year and if you have an event, please be sure to add it to the World Day Map here. You can find all the resources for WHPCD, including the Toolkit, here.
This article was originally published on the European Association for Palliative Care blog. Read more on the EAPC blog about Compassionate Community movement.