‘Death Doulas’ helps cancer patients face their end of life with courage and purpose
Better care is needed for patients with advanced cancer who may be facing the end of life, and death doulas – also known as “soul doulas” or “end of life doulas”. life” – can provide a resource that helps patients and their family members cope with this difficult stage, according to Lorraine Holtslander.
“A death doula has training and expertise to support individuals and families coping with serious illnesses, including through death and bereavement,” said Holtslander, a professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, in an interview with CURE®. “The doula provides support to access needed resources, make the best decisions, and plan and prepare ahead of time in the event of a serious illness.”
Death doulas can help “bridge the gaps” between the clinical and personal side of care, Holtslander explained, as they help patients and families navigate the healthcare system while ensuring that important aspects such that their culture, gender and sexuality are honored through the end of their lives. They may also offer services such as aromatherapy and music therapy.
“More and more people want to take control of how they manage life-threatening illnesses, be supported to do their own future planning and move away from a strictly medical approach to dying and dying, towards a more natural end of life,” she said.
Holtslander noted that death doulas are just one aspect of often underutilized end-of-life care resources that may be available to patients and their families. She mentioned that palliative care is always appropriate for patients with serious illnesses like cancer and that making sure patients’ wishes are met starts with a conversation.
“It’s so important to know what the values, wishes and beliefs of the person facing a serious or end-of-life illness are so that the best decisions can be made,” Holtslander said. “We all face end of life at some point. Let’s make it the best experience, filled with courage and meaning, because there are many choices and options to bring comfort to the person and their family.
Options for patients with advanced cancer may include palliative care, which focuses on symptom management and psychosocial well-being, and palliative care, which is end-of-life care.
“Patients with advanced cancer should access palliative and palliative care earlier rather than later in the process, which research shows will increase both the quality and quantity of their days and time,” said said Holtslander. “If a patient wishes to die at home, supports may be in place such as the palliative care team, hospice resources and information, and doulas to support family caregivers.
Death doulas not only help the patient until the end of their life, but also support their loved ones through the grieving process after the death of the cancer patient. These professionals can be used at any time throughout the process, from completion of the advanced care plan through and after death.
“Death doesn’t have to be scary or painful; it can be a really beautiful, really spiritual experience,” Holtslander said.
However, more needs to be done for patients with advanced cancer facing the end of life, according to Holtslander.
“We can do better for people with advanced cancer, giving them the best options, individualized care plans and more control over what happens to them,” she concluded.
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