Often there is no choice but to put a loved one in a long term care facility when we are unable to care for them at home. We know that our loved ones will be spending the rest of their lives there. This is the care and support they need until they die. Should part of the care that is given be end of life planning?
Nursing homes and long term care facilities take care of the physical and medical planning of end of life, advanced directives, DNR orders, etc. but what about the emotional side of end of life planning? When we know that our loved ones are going to live out their days at a nursing facility shouldn't part of the services offered be vigil planning? Making the most of the time they have left and ensuring whenever the time comes it is everything that they want in their final days?
Early planning, in my opinion, is especially important for those who have cognitive decline. Getting a personalized plan while the individual is still able to make decisions about what they want and provide insight can be such a gift to the family when the time comes. The family can feel like they have a piece of their loved one back even as they slip away.
Long term care facilities with advanced nursing care offer the best support and lifestyle as we age and decline when it is no longer feasible to stay home, but what about vigils, life review, and legacy projects? Is there a gap that can be filled by an End of Life Doula being added to the staff?
During the COVID-19 pandemic the benefits of having residents of a long term care facility having access to an on staff end of life doula would be immeasurable. If part of the care you received was vigil planning, life review, and legacy projects the idea that a virus that is especially cruel to the elderly and those in poor health could have provided comfort to the residents and their families. Knowing even if the family couldn't be present for the final days and last breath that their end of life plan was still being followed.
Hospices are more and more frequently offering doulas as part of their volunteer services, but the average amount of time people are getting hospice care is around two and a half months, for a volunteer this equates to about 10 visits and since there are few doula volunteers they are often not called in until it is time to sit vigil. This doesn't give the doula enough time to really be effective, most people need a few visits to get comfortable before they really start opening up and getting the most out of the services a doula offers.
If doulas were on staff at long term care facilities, then they could help plan a beautiful vigil, do a thorough life review and provide grief support to the family who, in a perfect world, would have built a rapport with the on staff doula.
Is it possible with the rise in doulas and their popularity we will start to see them on staff at long term care facilities? What about at hospitals to work alongside the palliative care and spiritual care teams for sudden deaths as well as terminal diagnoses?
My name is Abby, my life has been touched many times by loss and grief. This life has led me to helping others navigate their own grief. I have become a INELDA trained End Of Life Doula and a hospice volunteer. I am not a professional counselor or psychologist and all advice given should be treated as advice from a friend.