Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia, 16–18 November 2021 2021

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Prof Samar Aoun

Professor of Palliative Care Research, La Trobe University and Perron Institute

Prof Samar Aoun

Abstract

The Compassionate Communities Connectors Model of Care: A Community and Health Service Partnership in the South West of Western Australia

There is an international drive towards increasing provision of community-led models of social and practical support for people living with advanced illness. This feasibility project aims to develop, implement and evaluate a model of community volunteers, identified as Compassionate Communities Connectors, to support people living with advanced illnesses/palliative care needs.

The approach maps and mobilises people’s personal networks of care through the Connectors enlisting Caring Helpers (community volunteers). The primary outcome is the effect of the intervention on social connectedness. Secondary outcomes are the intervention’s effect on unplanned hospital utilisation, caregiver support needs, advance care plans and satisfaction with intervention for patients/carers, volunteers and service providers.

A community directory and a two-day training program were developed with positive feedback from the Connectors. So far 19 patients and 11 carers enrolled in the program. Connectors have spent 80hours on Social Network Enhancement for these families in personal care, shopping, transport, preparing meals, social outings, preparation for end of life. The on-going evaluation shows appreciation for mutual benefits for the three target groups.

Through this public health approach to palliative care, we expect the community and palliative care service will have a sustainable pool of trained and experienced people who can attend to the social and practical needs of ill people, improve their social connectedness and reduce the need for unplanned hospital usage. This pioneer project demonstrates our experience accessing and undertaking research on vulnerable and hard to research populations, and will set an example that can be replicated in other rural settings.

Biography

Professor of Palliative Care Research, Perron Institute and La Trobe University. She adopts a public health approach to models of care and advocates for a person-centred health and social care. Her research programs on supporting family caregivers at end of life and the public health approach to bereavement care have informed policy and practice at the national and international levels.

Her recent work on social models in bereavement support has provided empirical evidence to strengthen the Compassionate Communities movement in bereavement support. She co-founded the South West Compassionate Communities Network in 2018 in WA. She recently undertook for WA Health a state-wide palliative care review from the consumer perspective.

Samar has established and chaired the West Australian Country Health Services Research Ethics Committee for 23 years. She has served on two principal National Health and Medical Research Council committees (2012-15) and has chaired NHMRC grant review panels (2014-18).