“Friends” at Joshua’s House Hospice are very special people. They are a group of volunteers who have gone through a program to include hours of instruction and training to prepare for becoming companions of residents. They will be by their side as they go through their end of life experience. These Friends, men and women, come from varying backgrounds and have each committed their time, and a sense of love and compassion for the individuals who will be served at Joshua’s House Hospice.

Recently, the group attended a training facilitated by Kris Kington-Barker, instructor and board member with the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA, https://www.inelda.org/). Doulas are trained in the recognizing and understanding stages of dying and death; grief and grieving; non-medical ways of supporting the dying, including advocating for patient needs; comfort touch; compassionate presence; active listening, communication strategies; the use of imagery and music; spiritual and cultural beliefs, and needs at the end of life. In the case of Joshua’s House Hospice, those who will become residents often will not have any kind of family support, therefore they may feel alone or abandoned and without safety or acceptance. Doulas can provide a stable presence for them and a sense of comfort at this dire time.

Kris says, “I am so impressed with the amazing efforts and achievements by Joshua’s House Hospice to realize Joshua Lee Nelson’s vision of creating a hospice house for the terminally ill homeless in Sacramento. When Marlene (founder  of Joshua’s House Hospice) reached out to INELDA to inquire about how volunteers trained as end-of-life doulas could support men and women previously living on the streets and now dying in Joshua’s House, it aligned with a core mission of, and grant received by, INELDA through the Gutenstein Family Foundation. The grant is to provide pro bono training in service of Prisoners, Veterans, and Homeless. We were excited to support the effort and through our prior work at the California Men’s Colony we knew the profound impact this approach could have.”

Training for the Friends will continue, and they will be supported while they become more accustomed to their roles as doulas. INELDA will also continue to support Joshua’s House Hospice and the Friends through ongoing engagement but the experience of working with clients is the next step in the overall process. As Kris poignantly mentions, “there is an expression that ‘the dying are our best teachers.’”

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