Who needs my services as an End-of-Life Doula?

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with a serious illness or terminal illness let me say I wish that things were different. Know that I am especially equipped at supporting you and your caregivers. In my 30+ years of working in health care, I have seen many patients and family members grapple with a diagnosis and illness.  The medical system is complex, overwhelming and often impersonal.  The terminology is often foreign.  There are many options and opinions surrounding treatment and management.   I have seen the fear in acknowledging that with a diagnosis, there is the real possibility of death.  So often the discussions and planning are tabled in pursuit of treatment and cure. I prefer to believe it doesn’t have to be “either/or.”  I believe in supporting the journey of hope within reality.  Talking about death doesn’t make one die any more than talking about sex makes one pregnant.  You can make plans for your “good” death before chaos and crisis and this can support the peace that allows for presence in life.

If you have not been given a diagnosis, aside from being human and if you are ready to talk about death and start the process of planning how you want to be supported before and during the dying process and how you want your wishes met after you have died then let’s explore.  I guarantee having your plan set aside, sharing with your loved ones and being able to modify it as life progresses will bring you piece of mind.

Specialized Care Focus: Cancer

I have spent much of my career working with patients diagnosed with cancer. I have had the privilege of meeting some them at the time that they receive their diagnosis, many as they progress through the treatment (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy) and post treatment as they face the side effects of their treatments. For some, their options are no longer for cure but palliation, life extension through treatment. Others have come to the end of their treatment options. And still others opt not to pursue any of the interventional options. I believe that the day that you receive a diagnosis you deserve someone to walk along side of you. If you have found me at this place or later in your journey, I am here. I am that someone who can support you in asking questions, facilitating conversations with your loved ones about your choices with treatment and quality of life. To help advocate for you as you navigate this journey. It is vital to talk about quality of life and goals of care so that you can get the symptom management you need. Regardless of your status: active treatment, NED, remission, recurrence or progression of disease it is never too late to have critical conversations and plan for end-of-life. I do not support the narrative that if you choose not to or are unable to pursue treatment you are “a failure,” “giving up” or “losing the battle.” Whatever your choice is you are not alone.

What can I offer you and your loved ones?

I offer compassionate support to my clients and caregivers in preparation through conversation, organization, planning and action.

End of Life Planning

When thinking of end of life planning this can encompass the practical such as organization of information, documents or possessions. Discussion of what you want and don’t want done with your body after you have died. I can support you in the organization and steps needed to move forward. I can also help to find you the right community resources for that which is not in my scope of practice. I am not an attorney nor am I a funeral director.

Other end of life planning may include writing a life review or reflection; Creating a legacy project as a gift for those left behind (video/audio recordings, letters, cards, recipes, stories etc.); writing the obituary, eulogy, social media posts/announcements; talking about what a “good” death means and what your environment may look like to facilitate your wishes

Advanced Care/Medical Directives

Deciding who will be your health care/medical power of attorney is one of the most important things you can do.  As you make this decision it is paired with developing your advanced care directives/living will and possibly a POLST form.  My goal is that you can document and communicate your wishes to your care providers and family or chosen caregivers.

Critical Conversations/Goals of Care

Critical conversations are difficult to have but necessary to ensure that your boundaries are being respected, your wishes are being met and that your caregivers, loved ones and care team understand and can shift as needed to support you. As the need for these conversations arise I can guide and empower you to enter into these discussions. When one has a serious illness, I can support you in helping develop questions and/or a contract when working with your care team. Conversations should be ongoing so that the care team may respect your wishes and boundaries around wanted and unwanted care as your ideas may shift during interventions. I can be your advocate throughout these discussions and with your team.

Caregiver Support

Caregiver support is vital. As someone who has been a caregiver it is not lost on me how difficult it is. You find yourself with so many feelings and it is flat out exhausting. You may find great joy and honor in this position and some may find resentment. You are not right or wrong for your feelings. I see you. You matter too. I want to help coordinate care across your support system or find ways that we can lighten the load.

Sitting Vigil

Should you and your loved ones be in need of intensive support as the time of death approaches I can provide education about the dying process. Based on what the client wants I can create a sacred and comfortable, supportive space for during the labor of death. This can be done in the home or other facility. This space is about bringing you the support that guides you along the journey.

Grief Support

As a grief educator, I acknowledge the complex and winding journey of grief that many do not wish to talk about or witness. I am committed to providing you and your constellation a place to have your grief witnessed, express your feelings, release your burdens of guilt, work to free yourself from old wounds, integrate the pain and the love and find meaning in life after loss.