By Lorraine Glowczak
Most agree that when new life enters this world and takes its first breath, it is a very precious and beautiful moment. However, the same can occur when life takes its last breath if offered preparation and guidance. An End-of-Life Doula can offer the assistance needed for a holistic and natural approach to death, making the transition a little less stressful for the individual and the loved ones they will leave behind.
Raymond resident Alexia Adams decided she wanted to help others facing death after experiencing the process of her grandparents’ death, both of whom were instrumental in her upbringing.
“In 2018, I lost my first grandparent,” Adams said. “My grandfather had heart failure, and I got to be with him through the whole process, including his last days at the hospice. Then, less than 12 months later, my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and again, I was with her until the end. I discovered with both of these experiences that by being with them through the whole progression of death, I experienced a sort of peace. The normal act of death wasn’t negative for my grandparents and me. There was a certain beauty in being with them through the process and supporting them in their choices at the end of their lives.”
Realizing that death and anxiety are real and shared experiences, Adams, who has a background in biomedical science with a master’s degree in health administration, decided to become a certified doula.
“End-of-Life Doulas are there to guide people through life’s most sacred transition,” Adams said. “It is important to me that people thinking about their death have an opportunity to reflect, grieve, celebrate, or just sit with their emotions without being told how to feel or what to do. Therefore, I approach death and end-of-life care holistically. I also advocate for the person learning about or processing their death and their loved ones. My support extends from the moment we begin preparing for what is to come, working through and after the death process.”
EOL doulas, also called death doulas, offer various options that include but are not limited to legacy work, planning, respite care, family support, explaining what to expect, advocating for the clients' wishes, being there in vigil, and coping with grief.
Adams said that EOL Doulas are there to partner with medical hospice experts and assist funeral directors.
“End-of-Life Doulas do not act as clinical care providers and do not replace the important roles of medical professionals such as hospice nurses and doctors. They also can help with planning funeral arrangements, acting as a support system between the client and the funeral director.”
The term doula began in the 1960s and 1970s. It included a non-clinical individual who helped women during the birthing process, providing assistance, resources, and education before and after the child's birth.
According to the website, Certified Care Doula, certifiedcaredoula.com, “the home birth movement opened up the idea that the natural process of birth could be handled safely and, most of the time, in the comfort of one’s home. It was a step in de-medicalizing this sacred experience and inviting people to look at the possibility of de-medicalizing death as well.”
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the concept of End-of-Life Doula began to flourish due to recognized frontrunners of the idea. Although many professionals started to see the benefits of holistically facing the death process, the Shira Ruskay Center, a bereavement Jewish Community Center in New York, and the book, “Dying Well,” published by Palliative Care Doctor Ira Byock, helped to push the movement forward.
At this time, death doulas often choose to complete training courses and receive certifications. However, no universally recognized or required licensing or educational credentialing program exists.
To learn more about Adams services visit: www.endoflifedoulaforme.com
There are many reputable websites to learn more about this growing movement in palliative care. Two worthy resources to begin research include the National End-of-Life Association at inelda.org and the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance at nedalliance.org. <