It's often said that those who work in the birthing field usually wander over to end-of-life care and/or hospice work at some point.
I found that rather odd at first until I stepped into that role myself.
work as an in-home caregiver to an elderly quadriplegic gentleman
opened my eyes to the fact that the dying need just as much
compassionate care and support as women in labor do. Both are
dealing with incredibly powerful transitions that can make one feel
terribly and desperately alone. Just having another person present at
such a time who isn't directly involved in the situation can help
immensely, even if all they're doing is sitting there offering the laboring
woman or the dying person their undivided attention.
This is the role I've been taking lately with my ailing father-in-law (Dick).
has been dealing with prostate cancer for a few years now and it's
finally looking like the end is near. He's maintained his independence
and mobility right up to about a month ago.
that point on I've taken a much more active role in his care, from
helping him get into and out of bed, to assisting him with his medical
care and hygiene, to things as simple as offering various foods that may entice his
I'm not a
trained nurse, but with the caregiver background I've been able to
handle his care with far more knowledge than the average person; allowing him to stay at home far longer than normal
circumstances would have permitted. It's also enabled me to remain calm through
the minor emergencies that had cropped up while he was home; this I feel has been incredibly important
to his overall well being.
Just an honest smile; undivided attention and lack of pity, fear or disgust goes a long way.
needed to transfer to the hospital two weeks ago and he moved up to the hospice ward late last week. Since his move out of
the house, I've made it a point to visit every few days, bringing him
his mail, chatting with him and reading books of a spiritual nature
aloud to him.
It's not my job to make medical decisions
for him or try to persuade or dissuade any choices on his part. My
role has been purely emotional support, to be an anchor of calm normalcy in a
tumultuous sea of unknown.
It's been an absolute honor
to perform this function for him; to assure him he's not going to die
alone. To me, this is the greatest gift I can give him.
I've had the opportunity of being a birth doula four times and each experience has been wonderful! Universe willing, I hope to attend more births in the future. However I'm finding that being a "death doula" can be just as empowering and satisfying as well.