Author: Anissa Picard
About the Author:
There is a relatively new movement growing, not only here in the United States, but around the world. This is one that pushes every human to dare to do death differently. The Positive Death Movement is here, now, and the death doula profession has appeared right along beside it! Bridging the gaps between medical care and hospice care, the End of Life Doula is helping dying patients and their families experience more positive transitions.
In this day and age over 70% of people wish to die in their own homes, surrounded by their loved ones. End of Life Doulas or EOLDs, sometimes called Death Midwives or Death Doulas, are helping make this a possibility for many. Death is not an emergency and can become a process that is looked at as sacred, positive, and peaceful. There is quality of life and quantity of life and most prefer quality over quantity. This is human consciousness evolving to improve the transitioning process for everyone.
An End of Life Doula is simply a non-medical person who gives physical, emotional, and spiritual support at the end of life. They may provide care before, during, or after death. Physical or logistical support could be anything from respite for the caregiver(s) to running errands or cooking meals. Supporting the emotions of a patient or their family members takes compassion, presence, and a listening ear. Spiritually, a doula would do things that were in alignment with the person’s religious or spiritual beliefs, which may include: prayer, meditation, or even sometimes rituals. Hospice doctors, nurses, and personal care assistants have time constraints, while doulas do not. A doula compliments hospice care in almost every way.
An End of Life Doula is simply a non-medical person who gives physical, emotional, and spiritual support at the end of life. They may provide care before, during, or after death.
There are a variety of ways an End of Life Doula can help the dying patient and their family members in the face of death. Each and every EOLD comes to the table with their own set of skills, experience, and scope of practice. Depending on the time frame of the person’s illness, a doula may have a chance to collaborate with the patient on artifacts, be it a recipe book, a work of art, scrapbook, audio recording or a slide show. Together they are able to co-create something which speaks to who that person is and gives more meaning to the life that they have lived. This is called legacy work and is a wonderful option to provide the dying patient.
There is a myriad of services doulas are able to offer. Doulas may talk with the patient for several hours to find out how they feel about the oncoming changes both emotionally and physically. They’re there to help calm the patient and to possibly aid in pain management using meditations and/or guided imagery. Some doulas are also Reiki therapists. Reiki can help someone at the end of life to heal them spiritually and emotionally to ease their transition from this world to the next. Doulas often work with the patient on forgiveness issues, whether it be themselves who need to ask for forgiveness or the one to forgive someone. They are able to help them write letters, emails, or even have a video conference.
EOLDs are also there to educate the family about signs to expect once the process of transitioning has begun. To be with someone and their family at the end of life is truly a privilege and a blessing. In our society, we aren’t really familiar with the dying process anymore. It has been removed, tucked away in a sterile white room.
Days or hours prior to the patient’s transition, we hold vigil, holding the person’s hand, placing a lit tealight next to the bedside. Some doulas may choose to sing to the patient while holding their hand, play harp music, which helps to calm their anxiety, or perhaps music that the patient previously chose. They may have their favorite aroma floating subtly through the air, be enveloped in their favorite colored bed linens, with their family surrounding them or their beloved pets curled up next to them. It is a doula’s job to create the most loving and peaceful atmosphere possible.
I became an End of Life Doula a year ago and will never look back on that life changing career move. It was a calling and I feel extremely blessed that I heeded the call!
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