BY ANDREW ROBERTS
Limerick launched its intention to become Ireland’s first ‘Compassionate City’ today at the International Compassionate Cities Summit held at the Castletroy Park Hotel.
Hoping to make Limerick a city that treats death, dying, illness, ageing and bereavement with openness, support and community engagement, the Milford Care Centre’s Compassionate Communities Project has been working since 2009 to put an end to the stigma surrounding these issues and aid people in dying well.
Deputy Mayor, Councillor Noel Gleeson, was there to open proceedings discussing the €15,000 ‘Mayor’s Prize’ that went towards the project’s “amazing, important and valuable work, may it long continue.”
International speakers took the stage to discuss the current state of palliative care and how crucial initiatives like the Compassionate Communities/Cities Projects were to supporting those who are dying and the family members caring for them.
“We must build networks so the community can help each other,” said Dr. Julian Abel, a palliative care consultant from the UK. Professional medical practitioners were an important stage in the plan, but only through actively engaging with the community would the quality of care – and the quality of life – increase and create a major impact on those directly impacted by aging, illness and death.
This was demonstrated in the interview with Philomena, an ageing Limerick resident, and Geraldine, a volunteer of the Good Neighbour Partnership, an off-shoot program of the Compassionate Communities Project.
With no family in Limerick, Philomena often felt isolated and lonely at home, and found doing tasks like making the bed and grocery shopping increasingly difficult. Geraldine stepped in and assisted Philomena, quickly forming a close bond to the point where Philomena said, ‘It’s like having a daughter you never had.’
Attendees were treated to a performance of ‘Think Ahead Limerick!’, a short play performed by the Northside Misfits, that showed the importance of discussing illness and death with family and friends, as well as a talk with Limerick visual artist Sinead Dinneen about her battle with cancer.
Her artworks, and those of other artists impacted by death and illness, were on display in the conference room, highlighting the open approach to dying that is a vital component of the Compassionate Cities Charter.
Over the next few months the Compassionate Communities Project will work with stakeholders, communities members and Limerick City and County Council, on an action plan that delegates will deliver at the 5th International Public Health and Palliative Care Conference in Ottawa, Canada, September 2017, kick-starting the formal process for Limerick’s designation as a Compassionate City.
If accepted, Limerick will become the third Compassionate City in the world following Bradford in England and Seville in Spain.