Background Hospices are experts in end-of-life care, embedded in communities and ideally placed to share our expertise. This is the aim of Compassionate Neighbours (CNs), a well-established programme, growing across London and the South East of England.
Aims The programme aims to:
Redefine the relationship between hospices and people suffering from social isolation/disconnection.
Co-design and deliver support for people bereaved or coming to the end of their lives.
Develop authentic and reciprocal relationships which penetrate the whole community.
Hospices invite people to train as CNs.
Trained CNs are connected with community members who seek a new relationship to help them cope with loneliness arising from serious illness/end-of-life care challenges.
CNs have access to regular support and advice from the hospice/network of CNs.
The programme was evaluated by independent researchers and studied as part of a completed PhD project.
Evaluation findings and data on demography and reach will be shared, alongside case-studies to illustrate impact.
Positive change in the wellbeing of participants, reducing loneliness, increasing connectivity and ascribing meaning and value to life.
New social capital between the hospice and communities – with power differentials challenged, participants enjoy greater agency and citizens feel increased ownership of end-of-life issues and the hospice.
Increases in recruiting and matching CNs during COVID-19. There are now over 1,800 CNs.
Conclusions There is growing acknowledgement of morbidity and mortality related to loneliness and social isolation. CNs provide relationships and connectivity for isolated people. CNs increase their own networks, skills and death literacy. Community members are active players, adding value to the lives of their CN. By engaging citizens in the challenges and opportunities afforded by death, dying and loss, relinquishing control and sharing power, hospices introduce new actors into the end-of-life arena. There is evidence that it’s scalable, flexible and adaptive.
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