I have two personal mantras: No one should die alone and it’s everyone’s responsibility to put their affairs in order
#1 THAT NO ONE SHOULD DIE ALONE (NODA)
For me, this does not mean that the dying person will not choose to die when everyone leaves the room – as some people do choose to wait for that moment. But it means that spiritually the person is ‘aware’ that he/she is not alone during their period of transition from life to death. So many people die ‘alone’ in hospital and residential aged care facilities, or at home with loved ones taking on the major impost of care. This is despite passionate and skilled health professionals and other staff doing the best that they can and families doing the best that they can.
But Life is often complex.
Resources are thin on the ground. Families are often torn between what they want to do (being with their loved one), what they feel they can do (some more comfortable with providing the care for their dying loved one; and others less so); and what they also ‘have’ to do (financially, job flexibility and sandwich-generational).
In times of extreme life and death decision-making and a period of extreme loss in anticipating the death of a loved one and subsequent life changes – as an End of Life Doula I am not here to judge but to be a companion, advocate, information guide and be ‘present’ for the person who is dying and their loved ones…
#2 IT’S EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY TO PUT THEIR AFFAIRS IN ORDER
In known sickness or in health, I believe we all have a responsibility to put our affairs in order. This puts not only a legal foundation in place (Wills and other Advance Care Planning documents) but also provides a sanctuary of ‘peace of mind’ for you as an individual and for those who you love should you lose capacity to make your own health decisions temporarily or permanently.
We are a death-phobic and death illiterate society in Australia. Death is not a conversation that many Australians typically have – not unless it is thrown upon us due to some ill fortunate event such as an major health incident related to an accident, a catastrophic health event or when given a life-limiting diagnosis.
Yet death is the one statistic that we can’t change – 100% of us are all going to die. For most of us, we just don’t know how, when and where.
We plan other life events – often meticulously – like weddings, vacations, what car and house we want to buy, what job we want to take – yet less than 15% of Australians have documented their advance care planning preferences.
So as an End of Life Doula – part of my community role is to advocate and encourage our communities to become more death literate and open to having conversations not only about dying and death, but how to live life before we die. And what actions can we put in place that provides not only information about our end of life wishes and values; but which can help to reduce the decision-making ‘burden’ and stress that is placed upon loved ones when treatment decisions and/ or death occurs.