The different kind of excitement building for Change Day Australia 2015

There is a different kind of excitement about Change Day Australia in the count-down to 11 March 2015 than in the lead-up to the 2014 event.

Last year I felt a nervous anticipation – 2014 was the inaugural Change Day in Australia to which a smallish band of passionate people, including me, had dedicated a lot of time and effort. We have a pretty good health system in Australia in lots of ways but it absolutely can be better. Would people come on board? Change Day is all about doing something better together – the FAQ is a good overview if you crave more information.

Over 15 000 wonderful pledges were lodged in 2014 in which people committed to things they could do to improve health ranging from

  • individuals committing to something that will either improve the health of others such as standing up to discriminatory behaviour, volunteering, being a role model or packing healthy lunches for their kids or for their own health, be it regular exercise, healthy diet or reframing their thinking;
  • health professionals pledging to listen, to smile, to introduce themselves, to provide training or to put the person at the centre of their care;
  • departments using it as opportunity to identify a focus or think outside the box and plan something they could achieve together;
  • big ticket items such as the Western Australian Director of Public Health pledging to develop a memorandum of understanding with the WA Health Consumers’ Council.

For Change Day 2014, I pledged to do my best to raise awareness of, and encourage participation of people in Western Australia in Change Day, and am thrilled that WA did achieve roughly 3500 pledges, approximately a quarter of the total in 2014. Many more people within WA have now heard of Change Day and lots of taken up promoting the 2015 campaign themselves with enthusiasm we could only have dreamed of last year.

2015 is shaping up to be even better, approaching 20 000 pledges from across Australia before the big day. Again the breadth of pledges is amazing. Check out the 2015 Pledge Gallery.

The effort for 2015 has been more about embedding than beginning. The excitement now is palpably more confident that this is an initiative which people will increasingly embrace and with a greater impact.

What do I find most exciting about Change Day?

  • People are recognising and embracing the NEED to change.
  • People are empowered to identify and make change(s) themselves, rather than just be subject to changes made around them.
  • Change Day prompts every one of us, whether working in health or not, to think about what we could each do to improve health. Improving the health of our community is everyone’s responsibility.
  • The benefit of teams uniting to pledge together has also been highlighted by many.
  • How great are the fabulously creative ideas that people have come up with? Some even involve creativity in health (see my posts on Where health and creativity intersect and The healing power of creativity if you want to understand why this excites me).
  • The enormous cumulative potential of many people each pledging to do even just one thing – collectively we can make a huge difference.

The power of Change Day is in the simplicity. 

Just think what can be achieved if we repeat and grow Change Day Australia every year!

Personally I have found it extraordinarily rewarding to help drive something that has so much potential, to meet so many people passionate about creating opportunities for positive change in health and to learn from the creative approaches taken by others.

My Change Day Australia 2015 pledge

Jacquie Garton-Smith Change Day 2015

This year I have pledged to work with my colleagues and networks to help people with (or at significant risk of) cardiovascular and other chronic health conditions to improve the quality of their lives through better access to information, support and more options for care outside hospitals, especially towards the end of life.

It’s no small ask but for me this allows me to draw across the different positions I hold, the networks of which I am a part to do something valuable and my passion for writing. There is some scope to achieve this in different ways. Flexibility is good as how things can be best done may be not fully appreciated even knowing what the starting steps are. Once you decide what you need to do, opportunities appear. As soon as I pledged I felt enormous relief – I could now get on with doing rather than thinking about what to do or how to word it!

Over to you – I urge you to pledge now!

Big or small, easy or difficult, creative or picking up on someone else’s idea, under anonymity or with your name … Whatever works as long as it will in some way improve health.

Go on, you know it’s the right thing to do.

Have you thought about a pledge for Change Day?

If you’ve pledged – either this year or before – what have you achieved so far?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please share them in the comments.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

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Disclaimer

© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith

 

A Better Death

Having the best life we can is something many of us desire and work towards. How we, or our loved ones, can die as well as possible is something many think less about.

A month ago we lost a very dear family member to heart failure. It is hard to write about still. In truth I have found it hard to write at all over recent weeks. However there is so much to learn from everything that happens and there are some positives to share from this experience which may help others. It is especially timely to share my thoughts on how we can do better with Change Day Australia on Thursday 6th March 2014. Addendum – 2015 Change Day will be 11th March!

My mother-in-law Chris was an incredible woman. She was one of the kindest people I have ever met. She hadn’t had an easy life, but she faced both life and her impending death with grace, courage and acceptance.

A rose by any other name

This post is a tribute to how she handled the situation she found herself in, but there are three key elements that allowed her to do so:

1. Information.

The cardiologist communicated very clearly about her prognosis and, to the best of his knowledge, what she could expect at diagnosis and all along. It was a shock for Chris at first, but it was the start of her coming to terms with her shortened life expectancy and to consider and communicate her wishes. As her condition became end-stage, she was not surprised and had most things put in place.

2. Palliative Care.

As a family we had experienced together how much palliative care can help in the past and Chris welcomed a timely referral. Palliative care is not just for cancer. There is much available to assist people with end of life chronic disease. The combination of expert care to help ease unpleasant symptoms, in this case particularly severe breathlessness, and the mobilisation of extra help at home made a huge difference to her quality of life over her final few months. It also allowed us to spend more quality time with her, as she was more comfortable and able to do a little more than she would have without treatment.

3. An Advance Health Directive.

The benefits of making an Advance Health Directive or a “living will” were at least two-fold. Firstly, her wishes were clearly articulated and helped us as her family understand what she wanted. Secondly when she had an unexpected sudden turn and an ambulance was called, the paramedics were given the Directive as soon as they came and were able to act in line with her wishes, as legally obliged to do so. There was no grey area. Without it, she may have been given CPR and carted off to hospital, both of which she explicitly did not want.

Our loss is still painful. We each regret that she had to die and we all miss her terribly. Because she had a sudden deterioration on the background of a slower decline, we didn’t get to say good-bye in the way we might have liked. But we can grieve knowing that she knew and had accepted that her life was ending and that the way she died was as she had expressed she wanted – peacefully at home, dignified with a minimum of fuss and with a quick final departure.

The key lessons to achieving a better death from our experience:

  • I encourage everybody to be open to having conversations around death. What may seem uncomfortable for some can bring enormous comfort.
  • In addition to this, I ask my colleagues in the health professions to clearly communicate, to offer early referral to palliative care and to provide information about Advance Health Directives (or your equivalent).

Would you like to share anything about your experience of losing a loved one?

What did, or could have, made the journey better?

Change Day is a wonderful chance to commit to do at least one thing to contribute to better end of life care or to improve health and wellbeing in general. Imagine the difference we can make if we each promise and do one thing. Please pledge now! Be creative… Or copy – we don’t mind. Please check out the wonderful pledges on the Change Day Australia website. There’s nothing to stop you making positive changes at any time of the year!

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You also may find inspiration from my posts on Imagine yourself in someone else’s hospital bed (or chair), The best cuppa ever about kindness or an earlier exploration of Where health and creativity intersect.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

Disclaimer

© 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith (Change Day image thanks to changeday.com.au)

(updated 4 May 2014)