If you must take a journey–a journey you have not chosen and to a place you have never been, do you imagine that having a knowledgeable and compassionate travel guide would make the experience more successful, more pleasant… and a lot less frightening?
From what archeologists have discovered in ancient burial sites, we are certain that as far back as 60,000 years ago, humans have assisted with the after life care of others. If this is true, it is likely that they also assisted with the care of the person before death as well. Most cultures–and particularly many indigenous peoples have long practices of assisting the family of the dying person. Unfortunately–in the twentieth century–our nation began calling death a medical condition and people started dying in hospitals, with more medical care, but less loving care.
Saying goodbye to loved ones–forever–is hard, painful and most of all, frightening. No one should do so without being surrounded by loved ones in the comfort of their own home environment…with the compassionate guidance and support of a knowledgeable and caring guide!
Fortunately, there is a care provider in the field of death and dying that goes by the title of “end of life doula”. Other names used are death midwife, end of life guide (that’s me), death coach, doula to the dying, and more. This person specializes in all matters regarding dying and supports the dying person and loved ones by providing emotional, physical, and spiritual support.
When the choice is made to die at home–with or without hospice services–there is an opportunity to allow what life and nature calls us all to do, without unnatural human interventions. Unlike dying in the hospital–where death is considered a medical failure–when a person dies at home, the natural event occurs in a more holistic manner. The guide is there for the sole purpose of attending to everyone’s needs because she understands that the event does not happen only to the dying person. Imagine! She is there for the family of the dying person! She does not belong to the doctor, she is not a staff member of the hospital, nor is she an employee of the hospice. She is there when needed, not for a scheduled shift but rather, whenever the loved ones ask for her. Because she understands that we cannot schedule dying to be conveniently timed for when the hospice staff can make a visit, but that dying is happening twenty-four hours a day, non stop.
Being an in-home care provider to the dying person–and particularly to the family of the dying person–the end of life doula can be helpful in many ways. She acts as a hands on teacher for family caregivers–teaching the signs of dying and demonstrating comfort care–often reinforcing what is being taught by hospice. She can help everyone involved plan the event of dying, including completing an advance healthcare directive, making after life care decisions, creating an obituary, creating a legacy, organizing a vigil, and much…much more.
And although an end of life doula is not a medical provider, most have come from long careers in medical fields such as nursing. Therefore, they can be an extra set of eyes that will quickly identify a medical need. Indeed, they are a valuable partner to hospice services and a voice for the patient and family.
The final days of our time on planet Earth can be as meaningful as every other chapter, filled with what we value most, shared with those we love. When thinking about the beginning of life, we all strive for a joyful experience. This requires planning and envisioning what we would want it to be, for everyone in the family. We prearrange the event, assuring that we get the help we need because…it makes for greater success and less complications. Like our beginning in this life, our ending matters also. Arranging for the help of an end of life doula will pay honor to our last chapter and provide support to our family and friends.
So now….you are in on the secret…to a happy ending!