Last March we ran a story, “Friends Until the End,” about our volunteers and the type of training program that they had completed to become “Friends” at Joshua’s House Hospice. Each will be officially known as an End of Life Doula. And though a full year has passed since the article came out, this group of wonderful people are still ready, willing, and 100% able to step into their positions as soon as we open.
Today we’d like to give you a little more background on what the title itself means. End of Life Doula is a non-medical person trained to care for someone holistically (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) at the end of life. The doula team is a group of volunteers who will be present to assist the residents of Joshua’s House Hospice as they journey through the end of their lives.
What is a Doula?
An End of Life Doula often provides the profound gift of companionship. Among many things, this might comprise simply holding the dying person’s hand; actively listening to his or her comments; conversing and attempting to offer answers/comfort to the individual’s questions/concerns/needs; watching television or reading a book aloud; discussing end-of-life wishes; helping the dying individual resolve/find peace. We might also assist the resident in contacting family members whom they have been out of touch with. And doulas may also assist with some basic physical care.
A doula can help someone prepare a plan for the end of their life. This might include preparing documents and planning for comfort care. They will help to plan a space that will be comforting (music, scents, etc.), a plan for visitors, and rituals. The Doula will also help to implement this plan as time goes on. In addition, a doula can help a dying person develop a legacy project, such as a record of his/her life story. Or a project that might involve writing letters, or possibly putting ideas into art or a memory book.
Equipped with Knowledge and a Compassionate Heart
Finally, the Doula will hold vigil in the last days of life, sitting with and comforting the person as they die. The Doula will also be equipped to help with early bereavement care with family, friends, or staff.
As mentioned in the previous article, the Doula team has gone through training with INELDA (International End of Life Doula Association) and will continue with training as Joshua’s House Hospice is closer to opening. We are planning a refresher training soon with INELDA, pursuing more training in trauma and mental health issues, and issues specific to people who are homeless. We are so grateful to each and every individual who has trained and committed to their volunteer position as an End of Life Doula. We understand that it takes very special people to comprise this important component that will be integral to the success of Joshua’s House Hospice, and to the comfort of our residents.
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