I know many of you are not making in-person visits to your clients, family and friends right now. Here are a few ideas for being a remote end-of-life doula, based on my personal experience.
#1 Stay in Contact
Those who live alone or have minimal social support need contact, in some form, now more than ever. Remember, “Kindness and compassion can be felt from a distance.” (Diana Cramer)
For those who work in care facilities, please spend as much extra time with patients as you can, because their regular visitors can’t be there. Ask them about the photographs in their room, or any other object that gives you a window into who they are. If appropriate and safe, touch them, hold their hand (even if you are gloved), offer to rub lotion on their arms. Help them put on soothing music. Whatever you can do to provide new sights, sounds, smells and touch, even if for just 20 minutes a day, will help. This is especially important if they are not able to talk on the phone or online with those who care about them.
If the care recipient is able to talk on the phone, call daily to check in. Be creative and think of ways to help them get stimulation them through the senses. This can improve mental health and help keep them connected to the outside world.
If the care recipient is able to connect online, now is a great time to explore Google Hangout or Duo, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Free Conference Call, or another platform by which they can see and talk to you. Some of these platforms work well for connecting multiple people, like grandchildren who live remotely. Teach yourself first, then ask an employee in the facility to help them get set up or, if they are able, talk them through the set-up yourself. I caution you to take your time and be patient! This may take several hours and/or several tries, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Research and suggest online offerings. Many groups and organizations are establishing online programs like religious services, support groups, group chats, book clubs, inspirational webinars, and even online meditation! There are new options cropping up daily for a variety of interests. Remember, for someone who is very ill, keep it simple.
#2 Doula-ing Remotely
We may not be able to visit in person, but some of our EOL doula talks and tasks can be accomplished remotely, such as Advance Care Planning discussions, life review (asking questions and recording the answers, doing research for a project like a book or an album), coming up with a list of questions for the healthcare provider, review of symptoms and suggestions for non-medical comfort measures and, of course, simply checking in. Those who are elderly and/or very ill need perspective and help discussing decisions. They need a sounding board. Doulas do not give medical advice or diagnose, but we can provide information and validation. If symptoms sound serious, it is perfectly okay to say so and suggest contacting a medical care provider.
Familiarize yourself with the telehealth options that are available. Ask your client if they would like you to look into this for them, based on the type of insurance they have and who they see for primary care. Again, you are not providing medical care yourself; you are enabling them to get a type of medical care they may not be aware of or familiar with.
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