END OF LIFE DOULA SERVICES
An End of Life Doula is
“someone who provides support, resources and options to people with a life-limiting diagnosis or those planning for and/or approaching their end of life and/or those close to them” (Helen Callanan, Preparing the Way)
As an End of Life Doula, Jacqui can provide:
- emotional and spiritual support to both well and dying individuals, and their loved ones, which can include the gift of continuity across the life spectrum i.e. before, during and after death occurs. You may be proactively planning whilst you are well (that's the best time to do it!) or you may have a life-limiting condition that will lead to death and wish to discuss and plan for end of life so that your wishes and values are taken into consideration
- providing a holistic non-medical approach to the fundamentally natural process of dying which can be as simple as “being present” and holding the dying person’s hand; active listening ~ “holding space” and facilitating conversations that address end of life questions, concerns and needs.
Service Options: The below is a list of services that Jacqui can offer within a person’s own home, hospital or residential aged care facility.
- Free no-obligation initial consultation: This gives you an opportunity to meet me and for opportunity to discuss your individual needs
- Fees are listed in FAQ
- Service options are listed below:
FOR THE INDIVIDUAL (the ‘client’)
- being present as an ‘informed companion’ – conversation, information, listening, comfort and compassion
- facilitate end of life planning including advance care planning discussions
- assist with service navigation and information
- participate in relaxation therapies e.g. guided meditation
- accompany to appointments (personal/medical)
- co-create life story / eulogy
- co-craft farewell messages to loved ones
- ceremony planning for life celebrations ~ living wake
- co-craft funeral and ceremony options
- be present as an ‘end of life companion’ for dying vigil
- provide end of life emotional support and information for family & friends
FOR FAMILY & FRIENDS (the ‘carer’)
- assist with sharing end of life discussions, information and preparation
- assist with service navigation for carers
- discuss and plan funeral / ceremony options
- provide respite during loved one’s active dying transitioning
- assist with after death body care and rituals/ceremony
- offer Funeral Celebrant services
- provide bereavement and practical information & support after the death of loved one
 The term ‘client’ refers to the individual primarily receiving End of Life Doula services irrespective of location – home, residential aged care facility or hospital
 The term ‘carer’ refers to the person/s nominated by the ‘client’ as their loved one e.g. family, friends, substitute decision-makers
Death is part of life...
In our society we often disassociate death treating it with a separateness from being alive, when in fact death is part of life. We are all going to die. That's a statistic we can't change. Yet so few people don't want to talk about dying or death; and few plan for it.
We plan for births, weddings, holidays, what car we want to buy, what suburb we want to live in; what house we will live in... yet few of us plan, prepare or talk about what we value most and what our wishes are if we are dying or after we are dead.
Although it is often personally confronting when faced with our own mortality; and it can be challenging to have conversations about death and dying with those you love, these are very important conversations to have. When you do have these conversations and put your affairs in order, there is often a great "sense of relief" and satisfaction that you have been able to share this important information; and a recognition that by doing this you hopefully will reduce some of the burden of decision-making for those you love in the event that decisions have to be made on your behalf due to illness, accident or death.
So how can an End of Life Doula help?
In Australia, and even internationally, the concept of a end of life doula ~ death doula ~ death midwife is still somewhat abstract as our modern Western society begins to understand what is the value and importance of this type of role within our community. Internationally people use different names for an End of Life Doula. These can include, Death Doula, Thana Doula, Death Midwife, End-of-life Consultant, Death Walker®, Death whisperer®.
Wikipedia's defines a death doula as follows:
A death midwife, or death doula, is a person who assists in the dying process, much like a midwife or doula does with the birthing process. It is often a community based role, aiming to help families cope with death through recognizing it as a natural and important part of life... [doulas] perform a large variety of service, including but not limited to creating death plans, and providing spiritual, psychological, and social support before and just after death. Their role can also include more logistical activities, helping with services, planning funerals and memorial services, and guiding mourners in their rights and responsibilities.
Whilst internationally there is an active presence of End of Life Doulas in Canada, America and the United Kingdom; and historically End of Life Doulas have been around for centuries, in Australia this role is a relatively new and emerging one. However the value of this role is being recognised and is emerging within the end-of-life care space.
The doula is not there to "fix" anything, but instead provides an avenue for preparing for death, sharing grief; and providing an opportunity for compassionate, empathetic reflection, discussion; and information sharing. Their presence can assist to reduce anxiety for persons who are isolated and/or lonely even if they have family and friends nearby. End of life doula services can be provided in a variety of settings e.g. at home, in a nursing home or in hospital.
Although an end of life doula can be known to a person for longer, their services are often called upon in the last week or days of a person's life. They become a "companion" to someone who is dying; and also a potentially valuable support to family members who often have never been exposed to seeing death; and who, after losing their loved one, can feel overwhelmed about what to do next. The doula role can provide guidance, support and share information for families and friends to consider.
Unlike the palliative care health professionals and personal carers that are often involved in medical and clinical care for the dying person, the end of life doula role is not medical or clinical. The doula does not replace the role of the health professional. Instead the end of life doula has an important complementary role that can support the dying person and their loved ones by providing additional opportunities for preparing for death, end of life exploration, reflection, discussion and planning. The doula can make themself available and "present" for the duration of time required. They are not time-restricted, unlike many of the roles provided by health professionals.
For me, it is not morbid to participate in discussions about death and dying and to support a person as they transition from this life. In fact it is an honour and I am humbled by how each person's journey is unique, and what a privilege it is to share in these moments not only with the person who is dying, but with the family and friends - many who have inner strength and resilience that they never knew they had until they have had to face the loss of a loved one... JACQUI
For further interesting info...
- Professor Allan Kellehear (June 2018) Patron of Living Well Dying Well. Watch his compelling video on compassionate communities and End of Life / Death Doulas
- Natural Death Care Centre - Australia Deathwalker information ~ end of life doula
- End of Life Doula Directory
- Natural Death Advocacy Network (NDAN)
- Preparing the Way