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Compassionate community networks: supporting home dying
  1. Julian Abel1,
  2. Jon Bowra2,
  3. Tony Walter3 and
  4. Glennys Howarth4
  1. 1Weston Hospicecare, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, UK
  2. 2Living Well, Dying Well, Sussex, UK
  3. 3Centre for Death & Society, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  4. 4Centre for Health and Social Care Innovation, Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK
  1. Correspondence to Julian Abel, Weston Hospicecare, 28 Thornbury Road, Uphill, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset BS23 4YQ and Weston Area Health Trust, Grange Rd, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 4TQ; julian.abel{at}


How may communities be mobilised to help someone dying at home? This conceptual article outlines the thinking behind an innovative compassionate community project being developed at Weston-super-Mare, UK. In this project, a health professional mentors the dying person and their carer to identify and match: (a) the tasks that need to be done and (b) the members of their social network who might help with these tasks. Network members may subsequently join a local volunteer force to assist others who are network poor. Performing practical tasks may be more acceptable to some family, friends and neighbours than having to engage in a conversation about dying, and provides a familiarity with dying that is often lacking in modern societies, so in this model, behavioural change precedes attitudinal change. The scheme rejects a service delivery model of care in favour of a community development model, but differs from community development schemes in which the mentor is a volunteer rather than a health professional, and also from those approaches that strive to build community capacity before any one individual dying person is helped. The pros and cons of each approach are discussed. There is a need for evaluation of this and similar schemes, and for basic research into naturally occurring resource mobilisation at the end of life.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.