Hazelbrook's Niki Read is dying to talk about death.
She said with an ageing population in the Blue Mountains it is a subject more people should be comfortable speaking about.
"Having experienced a lot of death in my 20’s from immediate family members … and then caring for my stepfather so he could die at home as was his choice, changed my life, and my grief for the better... I have used all this learning to go on and support others," she told the Gazette.
Ms Read is the local spokeswoman for Compassionate Communities, a Blue Mountains project now in its second year supporting residents to get the help they need when it comes to end of life issues; death, dying and bereavement.
The group connects people to health professionals and networks to "ultimately give our community more options to live a meaningful life right until the last breath".
Ms Read, a community development officer specialising in end-of-life care, calls her mission "death literacy in action".
"I started adult life as an artist and have found my way to end-of-life work due to my experiences. We think death is a taboo topic, but actually, research tells us it’s not."
Last week Compassionate Communities started training 30 volunteers in Katoomba to be "community connectors" in their "willing villages program" so more people know what to do when they come across someone dealing with end-of-life issues. There's another one in June.
It is based on a project from Frome in Somerset, U.K, which has seen a dramatic fall in emergency hospital admissions since it began a collective project to combat isolation. The Guardian reports they employed “health connectors” to help people plan their care, and trained voluntary “community connectors” to help their patients find the support they needed.
"They [Frome] are working closely with us to roll it out here in the Blue Mountains," Ms Read added.
The project here is organised by The GroundSwell Project and Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network.
One of the other ways the group is looking to better understand death is through a "world-first survey".
Developed by Western Sydney University 'Caring at end of life' research team and The GroundSwell Project, it will inform policy and practice at end-of-life and in palliative care. It is accessible here this month www.comcomhub.com/bmsurvey
"The more people that take this brief survey, the better we will be equipped to know how to care for people as they age and die.
"Blue Mountains is our first local site to be measured and it’s important we get enough respondents to make it measurable."
Some 27.3 per cent of residents in the Mountains are over 60, higher than the state average of 22.3 per cent.
Her group will also run the 6th International Conference of Compassionate Communities in Leura this October, with a Death Fringe Festival running at the same time. Experts from the Frome project will be presenters. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
- Lifeline 13 11 14 (24 hours)