How End-of-Life Doulas complement Hospice Care


Being a 24/7 caregiver to my mother for the final 9 weeks of her life changed my life path in unimaginable ways. I could never have done what I did without Hospice.  My situation wasn’t average: three weeks into my mother’s terminal diagnosis, I found my dad passed away in his bed. He wasn’t sick. I wasn’t prepared. My parents were 63 years young.

Our Hospice team was incredible. The assigned social worker was truly my backbone.  She gave me one hour of dedicated one-on-one time each week. That hour is invaluable for someone immersed in caring for a loved one.  We had a bath-aid, a volunteer, a nurse, and Mom’s favorite day of the week… Flute Day! Yes, we even had an amazing Flutist.

 

Working with Hospice

Hospice teams are very busy, seeing several patients a day. Each visit has limited time for all the important tasks. This is where an End of Life Doula is so valuable. An End-of-Life Doula fills in the gaps without time restrictions. And time is the most precious thing to a dying person.

Much of my time is spent at the bedside, simply listening to a person reminisce about their life. Listening compassionately is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It allows a person to make sense of their own story and find meaning in the life they’ve lived.

 

Our Two Concerns at the End

In our closing chapter, our two main worries are:

  • Did I live a meaningful life?
  • I don’t want to burden my family

Often, a complicated family dynamic can dominate the environment, making the space feel tense and heavy. The End-of-Life Doula normalizes the dying process while being a neutral presence between loved ones. The Doula usually works with one family at a time, and takes a holistic approach—incorporating mind, body, and spirit.

During the weeks I cared for my mother, I didn’t process the death of my father—nor did I hold space for my mom to grieve. I didn’t know how. The day my mother died, the house was empty, cold, and silent. When my mother went away, so did Hospice. Don’t get me wrong, the Bereavement Team was very compassionate.  I’m grateful for the supportive letters I received after her passing. But in that moment and the weeks after, I felt isolated and alone. I could have used a Doula.

My experience transformed me, and my vision for my life. I made a commitment to support the dying and their loved ones before, during, and after transition.

 

Want to learn more about how Hospice and End-of-Life Doulas can work together?

Contact me at crystal@thegratefuldeath.org for a complimentary consultation.