Compassionate Connectors Program

We are currently seeking expressions for new volunteers to become Compassionate Connectors or Caring Helpers. Please submit an Expression of Interest form here to become a Compassionate Connector or contact us if you are interested in becoming a Caring Helper.

Senior Lifestyle Tea Break Togetherness

Each family participating in  the project is matched with a Connector who will meet with them to determine the type of additional practical and social support they might need from ‘caring helpers’ in their community.  This is different for each person but some of the types of support that might be provided are:

  • transport for shopping, appointments, social activities
  • collecting prescriptions
  • organising meals
  • having a regular cuppa and chat
  • linking clients to community activities, such as choirs, walking groups, men’s shed and other interest groups where people can make friendships and share life’s events
  • helping complete Advance Care Planning documentation
  • help around the house, e.g. hanging out the washing or walking the dog
  • help accessing formal (paid) services.

The idea behind the Community Connectors project is to make the most of people’s local community – family, friends and neighbours.  Some of this is practical support and some of it is social support to increase people’s sense of belonging and connectedness. ‘Caring helpers’ might be existing family, friends, neighbours or other people from within the local community who are willing and able to assist.

Some of the benefits of a Compassionate Community include:

  • People feel cared for and supported in times of need
  • Significant improvement in social connectedness
  • Increased support networks and links to the community
  • Improved ability to engage in activities of daily living
  • Significant financial savings through the reduction in use of hospital services
  • A more holistic approach that addresses the social, practical and emotional domains of care

This project has been made possible with the support from the following organisations:

The Compassionate Communities model of palliative and end-of-life care emphasises the central role of community development and consumer engagement in the delivery of care. This approach actively involves a range of stakeholders (including neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools, and places of worship), to facilitate community networks that can support experiences of death, dying, grief and loss.

In Western Australia, this evidence-based international model has been developed and implemented by the South West Compassionate Communities Network in partnership with WA Country Health Service care teams (2020-22). Community volunteers (known as “Connectors”) were trained to enlist helpers from the community (known as Caring Helpers) to enhance supportive networks that can provide practical and social support to people with advanced chronic conditions and/or life limiting illnesses.

Evaluation of the program showed significant improvements in social connectedness of supported families, reflected in reduced social isolation, better functioning with daily activities and a two-fold increase in supportive networks. We found significant declines in frequency of hospitalisations per month and number of hospital days per month for those in the intervention (“Connector”) group relative to control population. In contrast, the frequency of outpatient events overall was significantly higher for the intervention group, suggesting that the Connector program has shifted individuals away from the hospital system and back towards community-based care.  A cost-consequence analysis assessed the overall economic impacts, indicating a net saving of using the Connector program was $AUD561,256 assuming enrolment of 100 people with life-limiting illness over a 6-month period.

Apart from the social and economic benefits, this pilot program has demonstrated a successful partnership between formal and informal networks to foster a more sustainable and affordable approach to care. The program has been integrated into the practice of the health service, an example of a rapid translation, with interest for the program to be replicated in several communities, statewide and nationwide. Findings support the potential benefits of uptake of public health approaches to managing life-limiting disease, with a greater emphasis on partnerships between health services, civic institutions and communities.

Research highlights can be found here. Other published Compassionate Communities research can be found here.

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