An introduction to some of the community initiatives that are happening currently in Walton-on-Thames...

How very different things are today to how they were 4 months ago. It’s been a very strange few months for all of us but as things are vey slowly getting back to normal, I wanted to let you know we are still working in our local communities and there are interesting things going on that you can get involved with – plus we’re adding to the list all the time.

Some time ago, Princess Alice Hospice joined a social movement called Compassionate Communities and Walton-on-Thames was chosen as one of our pilot sites. Our aim is to reach more people in our community with our care and part of our approach is to work with local communities to nurture and extend our services where possible.   We set up Meet up Monday at our Furniture shop in Walton. It’s a social group open to everyone and at 10am each Monday people would join us for a cuppa and some lovely home made cakes from our wonderful and talented volunteers. It was great to meet new people and hear their stories. Of course in March, those face to face meet ups had to stop. But we thought, hang on, why not start them up again online so that we can still meet up. So we’ve decided to run an online version of  Meet up Monday. So why not join us for a virtual cuppa and chat with other local people. This meetings are via zoom, every Monday at 10am from 10th August until we’re able to return to our usual home at the Princess Alice Hospice furniture shop in Walton. Meet new friends for a relaxed get together and catch up. You never know where the conversation will take you…

Sadly many of us will know someone who’s had  Coronavirus and worse maybe someone who has died. The situation has made many people thoughtful about their own mortality and they may want  to express how they are feeling. So we have set up some Death Cafes. Often people comment they don’t like the title; death is such a taboo subject. At our Death cafes, people come together to talk about anything regarding death and dying. We often hear funny stories such as the time someone fell in a grave at a funeral or a really ‘inappropriate’ song was played and also touching stories. People talk about what music they might like at their funeral, or where they want to die. They may share things with the group that they have not been able to share with their families or perhaps something on their bucket list. It’s a safe space with no right or wrong answers, no themes or agenda. Just a group of people speaking freely about a subject they don’t often have a chance to discuss. If you’re curious, why not come along? They are all via zoom, so if you don’t like it, all you have to do is press a button and leave!

We are also running some Planning Ahead talks on line via zoom. Regardless of our current health and wellbeing, we can all benefit from being prepared for some of the choices that may face us in the future. There may come a time when we are unable to communicate what we would like to happen, either due to illness, an accident or mental incapacity. We know it can be a difficult thing to think about and, for some, not an easy conversation to start with our friends and family.  In having these conversations and recording and sharing our wishes, we are more likely to get the care we want.

Come along to one of our Planning Ahead sessions to learn more about how to start the conversation, what you might want to think about and how you can ensure your preferences are recorded and shared.

Before Coronavirus, our Compassionate Neighbour volunteers were busy supporting people all over our care area. Compassionate Neighbours are trained volunteers offering friendship and a listening ear and providing regular emotional and social support to people in their local community who are living with long term or life limiting illness and the effects of social isolation and loneliness. Before Coronavirus, the volunteers could visit people in their homes but that all had to change. Suddenly they weren’t allowed to do that anymore so we immediately organised for them to be able to telephone people so they were able to stay in touch by phone. We realised we needed to recruit more volunteers to offer the telephone support as well as help with essential shopping and the medicine collection and delivery. This proved invaluable to many of the people we were supporting especially as many had lost their usual network of help due to lockdown and shielding. We were astonished when over 100 people came forward to apply for the role. People just wanted to help and we were able to train and match many of them with people in the community.  There was a real community spirit which I know has been felt up and down the county with many people, groups, streets and communities coming together to help and support each other. If you feel you might benefit from having a Compassionate Neighbour or just want to find out more, do get in touch with us. Many of us are working from home so you can call Ali on 07918 716 968 or Lauren on 07793 773072 or email cn@pah.org.uk.

We are constantly busy thinking of new ways to support the community and soon we will have some community bereavement support activities up and running such as online Bereavement cafes and bereavement walk and talks, so watch this space for updates.

Below is a quote we work to and it’s so relevant:

 I live in a community where everybody recognises that we all have a role to play in supporting each other in times of crisis and loss. People are ready, willing and confident to have conversations about living and dying well and to support each other in emotional and practical ways.                   

Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care: A national framework for local action 2015-2020