Compassionate Communities

stylized illustrations of people and leaves

What are Compassionate Communities?

Compassionate Communities are networks of individuals and organizations that believe it is everyone’s responsibility to care for each other through life-limiting illness, dying, caregiving and grief.

A Compassionate Communities movement formed in the mid-2000s with the goals of building community support, recognizing illness, dying and grief as part of life, and making sure these subjects are talked about in social settings, embedded in policymaking and highlighted in the arts.

Compassionate Communities can be formal or informal, permanent or temporary, and include:

  • health care providers
  • social service agencies
  • schools
  • faith communities
  • workplaces
  • neighbourhoods
  • social groups

Compassionate Communities are groups of people who help each other through times of crisis and loss.

Why are they important?

Compassionate Communities provide practical and emotional support to those who are sick, reduce the burden on caregivers, and offer meaningful opportunities for human connection at life’s critical moments.

They complement health services and expand the community’s capacity to care for people facing a serious illness.

The role of hospice and palliative care societies

Hospice and palliative care societies put the philosophy of Compassionate Communities into action in communities across Alberta.

These non-profit organizations offer a range of programs and services to support people living with serious illnesses, including public education, volunteer services, grief support, and in some cases, residential hospice care.

To find out more about their activities over the past five years and the opportunities they identify to improve public understanding of palliative care, read our report, Raising Public Awareness of Palliative Care: A 2021 survey of Alberta Hospice and Palliative Care Societies.

Find a local palliative care or hospice society near you through the directory of the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association.

How to get started

Is your community group or organization interested in expanding community support for those who are sick, caregiving or grieving? As a first step, consider attending or hosting PalliLearn courses to gain valuable knowledge and skills.

Next, browse the list of resources below and choose one that would help your group identify concrete ways to nurture more supportive communities where you live, work, worship or play.

  • A Resource Guide for Community Development of Palliative and End-of-Life Care within Alberta | Interested in starting a palliative care society in your community? This resource developed by Alberta Health Services provides important information about how to get started, including information about training, fundraising and logistics.
  • Atlas CareMap Community Workshop Toolkit | A toolkit from Pallium Canada that contains everything needed to run workshops that explain why and how to make a Care Map – a practical way to coordinate support for those who are sick as well as those who care for them.
  • Compassionate Communities Toolkit | A suite of resources developed by the BC Centre for Palliative Care to help communities assess their level of readiness and commitment, then undertake action planning to build more compassionate communities.
  • Compassionate Community Startup Toolkit | A toolkit from Pallium Canada to help community groups launch compassionate community initiatives. Includes presentation materials introducing the concept and a discussion guide to help identify community strengths and gauge support.
  • Compassionate Community Workplace Toolkit | Practical resources developed by Pallium Canada to help employers, managers, and employees increase awareness and reduce stigma surrounding serious illness, caregiving and grief in the workplace.
  • Death Literacy Index | A survey developed by researchers at Western Sydney University to help community groups measure their knowledge and ability to support each other towards the end of life. A Community User Guide provides guidance on how to use the survey to take action and to measure the impact of initiatives undertaken.
  • Developing Palliative Care Programs in First Nations Communities and Supporting the Development of Palliative Care Programs in First Nations Communities | A set of resources developed by researchers at Lakehead University. Includes a workbook for use by First Nations communities and a guide for outside partners such as health care providers and policy makers to support First Nations in building community capacity to provide palliative care.
  • Nav-CARE | Created by Dr. Wendy Duggleby at the University of Alberta and Dr. Barbara Pesut at the University of British Columbia and run in collaboration with community-based organizations, this program trains volunteers to support people with declining health to live as well and independently as long as possible.
  • Quick Start Implementation Guide: Carer-Friendly Workplace Standard | Easy-to-read starter guide developed by researchers at McMaster University to help managers and HR professionals better understand the demands on employees who are caregivers and provide practical tips on how to better support them in the workplace.
stylized illustration of people

Are you an educator?

My name is Tuan and I work for a grassroots organization that invests a lot of time and energy training its volunteers. We've learned about a range of social supports, but we've never gotten into topics related to helping people comfortably experience a life-limiting illness. Do any exist?