Presented by: David Smeeton
Review written by: Sheila Twine and David Smeeton

David Smeeton gave a humorous and down to earth presentation on Advanced Care Planning, Palliative Care, and the Compassionate Community. He explained why we should all have a ‘Conversation’ with family and close friends on how we wish to be treated if we become so life limited and ill we are unable to speak for ourselves; and how we should go about writing up Advanced Care Plans and Advanced Health Directives. His talk covered the support that Palliative Care brings to those with a terminal illness, so they can live their lives as pain free as possible and with dignity. He stressed the importance of telling people around you how you wish to be treated if you can no longer let your wishes be known. Most of us have a will, but how many have let loved ones know if we want to stay in our own homes as frailty overtakes us, or what treatments we may want, or not want, if we become terminally ill.  How many sons and daughters for example know what music we like, or hate; how much pain we can tolerate comfortably; and whether we want to have intrusive medical procedures which may prolong our lives, but may leave us with disabilities that affect the quality of our lives. Conversations about End of Life Dying Matters are difficult to start but they are so essential.

David, who had just returned from a two day international conference in Sydney on the emerging concept of Compassionate Communities, spoke passionately about the need for people in our local neighbourhoods to look out for each other. Professionals are not the entire picture and numerous acts of kindness at the local level gives a friendly and human touch which we all need. Creating a network of carers – family and/or friends around someone who is life threatened – is vital for a good death. Frequent neighbourly contact counters the isolation that many chronically sick, frail and aged people experience, particularly when they can no longer drive. Staying in one’s own home may be the ideal but one must remain connected to friends and society as we age and our abilities diminish. David is keen to encourage a system of Compassionate Community Companions, operating alongside Palliative Care doctors and nurses in the Peel Region.

Members present shared many of their experiences and the room was buzzing with chat by tea time; and half a dozen members indicated they were willing to train as care volunteers.  A good sign for Mandurah with its ageing demographic.