Ask A Doulagiver #
5 Tips on How to Care for Someone Who is Dying
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Episode Show Notes
- Be Present [2:47] – The magic is in the present moment. Be fully present – not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. Most of us don’t live in the present moment. Focus on what’s in front of you – what do you see, what do you hear, what do you feel in your heart? If you are fully present, you will get everything you need to know how to be of service to a person at end of life. People may say they’re fine, but if you really observe in the moment, you will know the truth. Trust your “knowing.” If your mind is all over the place, you can’t lean into your intuition properly. Ground your energy and quiet your mind before entering the room with a patient so you can be settled and truly present in the moment for that person.
- Meet the Person “Where They Are” Emotionally [6:35] – Many people are in crisis by the time they reach out for end-of-life support services. End of life has three phases – the Shock Phase, the Stabilization Phase, and the Transition Phase. It’s in the Shock Phase – the initial period following someone getting a terminal diagnosis that everything is so intense. There could be many emotions present and there usually are. Anger, withdrawal, sometimes even humor as a defensive mechanism comes into the fold – and denial is also a really big one. So, when I say, “meet people where they are emotionally” it has to be perfect to where they are and how they’re presenting – this is not about our agenda, it’s about them. If people are angry, sad, or all over the place – just meet people where they are at that moment and work from that point forward. There is that initial space where everyone is in shock – let them go on their journey and give them time to process it. It’s really important for us to show up and be of service to people in this moment and of course through the whole journey.
- Don’t Judge [8:54] – This is a pillar of the Doulagivers practice. Don’t judge what’s happening. This is not only for the person at end of life, but also for their “nucleus” – the people in their inner circle who are deeply affected by what is going on. Everyone is having their own experience during end of life, and everyone might be having a different experience. There is no judgment at the end of life – this is a universal law I have learned from working with my patients over the decades. End of life is hard – we don’t have full context on anybody’s life and it’s important to remember that everyone is doing the best they can with where they are on their journey. Things can get really intense at the end of life, so always remove judgment from the situation.
- Be of Service [10:57] – Set your intention to be of service. You don’t have to figure it all out or have an agenda. Simply ask yourself, “how may I show up to be of the highest service – to this family, to this work, to the world, and to myself?” When you go in, just be present and have the open heart to be of service in the whole dynamic and see what comes into you. Don’t push – flow. Be of service and bear witness to this person’s experience – you’re not here to fix it or direct and take over. You’re here to be present with no judgment, with an open heart, and to be of the highest service – that is the best medicine we can give one another. When you show up to be of the highest service, it allows for this energetic place that’s really organic for the end of life where beautiful things can be processed, accepted, brought to light, and people can find peace. If you do this, you’ll be in a great position to help somebody.
- Practice Self-Care [12:48] – This is for you. When caring for those at end of life, caregivers can put themselves last and not want to take time off. You have to plan on the long haul – we don’t know how much time we have at the end of life. We want it to be as positive an experience as possible, and it can be. Part of that is making sure that the caregiver is getting enough sleep, nutrition, and having some down time so that they can be fully present for their loved one (or client as a Doulagiver). People are in fight or flight mode at this time – we have to prioritize our health. Having a few hours off is best – but doing as little as taking ten minutes to walk in nature or get sun on your face can do a world of good. An hour or two of respite is very important – ask someone to cover a shift for you so that you can take a nap or just have a break. Also make sure you are getting adequate water and nutrition intake. I understand that during this time people may not want to eat or have time to prepare full meals, but this is critically important for the health and balance of your body. In order to take care of others, we must take care of ourselves. If you allow yourself to burnout, you won’t be able to provide optimal care.
- “If you are fully present, you will get everything you need to know to be of service to a person at the end of life.” – Suzanne B. O’Brien RN
- “Simply ask yourself, ‘how may I show up to be of the highest service – to this family, to this work, to the world, and to myself?’” – Suzanne B. O’Brien RN
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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Hi everyone. And welcome to this episode of ask a death doula. My name is Suzanne O Ryan. Thank you so much for being here. Um, today’s topic of this podcast is going to be the five tips on how to care for somebody who is dying. And I will tell you this, that I am a former hospice and oncology nurse, and I am now the founder of doula givers, which trains end of life professionals that are non-medical holistic professionals filling in the gaps in mainstream medical. And it has been an incredible experience, but I will share with you this, that almost every day, I get either an email to the office or a phone call from a family in crisis, from somebody who just got a terminal diagnosis, somebody who is going on hospice, and they need everything right now and they need help. And they don’t know the first thing about what to do.
Speaker 1 (00:59):
So today’s podcast is gonna be five tips to share with you that quickly you can know tools to be able to care for somebody who is dying. And this is so very important, cuz I always will share that at the end of life, time is not on our side. We’re always racing against the clock. And one of my main purposes and platforms is to bring death back into the natural fold of life. And if you have followed me and if you know, what I stand for is that death is a natural part of the human experience. We know it’s so difficult, we don’t wanna rush it, but we also know that denying it and completely removing it from our is causing deaths to be a thousand times more complicated for not only the patient, but for the loved ones as well. And also that death is our greatest teacher about life, about connection and presence and purpose and all the beauty that I have learned.
Speaker 1 (02:06):
It has completely changed my life. The minute that I became a hospice nurse. So when I look at the big picture of our world, one of the things that I absolutely wholeheartedly believe in is that the removal of death in our awareness, which is about the last a hundred years, is a direct link to the chaos that we see out there. So on so many layers and levels, bringing back death awareness and education and support is one of the healthiest and best things we can do. So today I wanna come on and do a podcast to give quick tips and tools that people can use to care for somebody at the end of life, tip number one, be present, be fully present. And I’m not talking about physically. Of course, you’re gonna physically be there today in our world. We are living in a time where we are either focusing on a million things that we have to do in the future and you know, worry and all the stuff that’s going on.
Speaker 1 (03:08):
I need to do this and I need to do that. Or we are really focused again on the past and holding on to what we wish it would’ve been like. So we’re really missing the present moment. And I’m gonna share with you one of the universal gifts and tools that end of life teaches us, is that the magic is in the present moment because in this moment, right here, right now with you and me, it’s perfect. Right? We’re just here. We’re just connecting the we’re just, there’s nothing else. And isn’t that just a breath of fresh air. Isn’t that just magical. So to be in the present moment and to really be focused on what’s in front of you, what, what do you see? What do you hear? What are you feel in your heart to really be in that present moment? But for the most part, we don’t live in the present moment at all right now.
Speaker 1 (04:00):
So to be present and the other tool that, and this is so important about that. If you are fully present, you will get everything you need to know about how to be of service to this person at the end of life. What do I mean by that? So when I was a hospice nurse coming in and as a doula, now you, when them in to serve an end of life, client and their family, you know, we do the conversation. How are you today? Great. Okay. I know they’re not great. So they may say that they’re doing the they’re fine. They’re doing great. And you know, in your heart, well, they’re not great at all. They’re not okay at all. And you can do this with people that you pass during the day. How are you doing? Okay, good. And you’re like, Hmm, no, you’re knowing.
Speaker 1 (04:51):
So when you observe what you see, what you hear, how is that person? Are they looking at you? Are they looking down? Are, you know, what’s happening with their body, but also what do you know, what are you getting in your knowing? Cause I teach my doulas and I’ll teach everyone that I share. Any education with you are knowing part of your being not what do I think? That’s the mental mind that’s analytical. What do I feel? What do I know to be true? It’s one of your best diagnostic tools are none in this life for you, for serving as a doula, for serving as a caregiver. What do I feel is going on? Because that is gonna be of the highest truth. So when you’re present and you can’t know, you can’t tap in, you can’t, you can’t get that, um, information if your mind is all or the place.
Speaker 1 (05:46):
So one of the tips first is to be present. And the way that you can do this, a great strategy for this is to what you call ground your energy. Take a few minutes before you go in, see that loved one, to get quiet, to empty out, to quiet the mind, right? Of all the chatter and all the things that you’ve been going through. Do three deep breaths, breathe through your nose, out through your mouth, three deep breaths, and really just try and ground, just try and open your heart to light and love and be present, trying to empty out. That’s a great way to settle your energy. Before you go in to see someone again, being present truly present will allow you to know, to feel, to hear everything that you need in order to be of service to that person. Tip number two is to meet the person where they are in their journey.
Speaker 1 (06:41):
And I don’t mean again, physically. I mean, of course you’re gonna do that, but now we have tele do lists. So many people are working with caregivers over the, uh, technology, which is absolutely amazing, but meet the person where they are emotionally. And this is a tough one, right? But it happens all the time. So right now we get many people and families who will contact us. They’re in crisis, they’re in crisis, they’re spiraling, they’re in crisis. And it’s heartbreaking cuz honestly there’s really not a whole lot that we can do as far as the big picture to really help them to have everything they need to have it go as well as it could go. Cuz that starts way back here. However it is working and it’s, there’s beautiful work being done. But if we can bring this back again, the awareness into the fold event of life and have people plan and live their purpose and find those things of forgiveness.
Speaker 1 (07:38):
When the comes that we’re aware that one day it will, we wanna be able to say, okay, so meeting somebody where they are emotionally because end of life has three different phases, shock phase stabilization phase and transition phase. And it’s in the shock phase. That initial time when someone gets a terminal diagnosis, that every thing is so intense, right? There could be many emotions. And there usually are anger. Withdrawal is like the major one that I’ve seen. Sometimes humor comes in because that’s a defense mechanism, but denial is a huge one. So when I say meet people where they are emotionally, it has to be perfect where they are and how they’re presenting. It’s our agenda. It’s about them. So if they’re angry, if they’re sad, if they’re all over the place, just meet them where they are at that moment and work from that point forward, let let this, you know, let time be part of it, let them go on their journey.
Speaker 1 (08:36):
There’s that initial space where everyone’s in shock. And it’s a real important space for us to show up, to be of service to people at this point. And of course through the whole journey. So number two was to meet people where they are emotionally in their journey with no judgment work. From that point forward, number three is no judgment. So these are pillars of do givers practice. And they’re really wonderful. Don’t judge what’s happening. If somebody is angry or if somebody is, and this, this not only is for the person who’s at end of life, but for what I call the people in the nucleus. So those people that are in that inner circle attached to that person, and it’s not only just family members, it could be a best friend. You know, whoever that nucleus is because everyone is having their own experience attached to this end of life.
Speaker 1 (09:27):
And everyone could be having a different experience. Try not to judge don’t judge, right? There is no judgment. That’s again, another universe, the law that we’ve learned at the, for the, from the people at end of life. And it’s hard, right? Because we know that when we show up and maybe there’s a daughter and an adult daughter in the family, who’s not, you know, on her journey that is struggling on her journey. That is very, uh, all about me on her journey. That is not contributing to this. It’s hard not to judge sometimes, right? But we have to remember that people are doing the best they can with where they are in their journey. And it’s perfect. It’s not always ideal. People are always responsible for their own actions, but in this space at this time don’t judge and don’t judge and your life, you know, try and show up with an open heart.
Speaker 1 (10:20):
It doesn’t mean that you’re excusing people doesn’t mean that you have to deal with people that in your life that are not serving you, that that are draining your energy, but don’t judge them, bless them and let them go. But in this dynamic, try not to judge what’s going on because what I see right now, again, with that denial of end of life awareness is that everyone stuff bubbles up to the top of the end here and it can get really, really intense. So don’t judge meet people where they are and work from that point forward is just a wonderful again, pillar of practice number four, be of service. So what I do with my way that I practice in, in the building of dealer givers Institute and also with my patients and families is to just set the intention to be of service, to not try and figure it out, to not have an agenda, to just say, how may I show up to be of the highest service to this family, to this work, to the world and to myself. So when you go in, just be present and have that open heart to be of service with this whole dynamic and see what comes in, don’t push flow, what comes in and how to be of service and bearing witness bearing witness to this person’s experience. You’re not here to fix it. You’re not here to, again, direct and, and take over. You’re here to bear witness with no judgment with an open heart and to be of the highest service that is the best medicine we can get. One another.
Speaker 1 (12:02):
So bearing witness again is so very important because at the end of life, there are things that somebody will most likely wanna share. How they’re feeling moves, energy, regrets, that they’ve had moves energy, forgiveness, or unforgiveness that they’re holding onto. So this is a critically beautiful space. And when you again, show up to be of the highest service, it allows this energetic place. That’s really organic for the end of life that allows many of these beautiful things to be processed, to have acceptance, to be brought to light and have peace about. So again, just a magical place have that open heart to be of service. And you’ll be in a great position to help somebody. And number five is to practice self care for you for you. So when I come in and I’m working with end of life patients and their families, I take care of all of them, but I see that caregiver.
Speaker 1 (13:02):
I see them go down. I see them struggling. I see them not sleeping, not eating, getting sick. Can’t do this. So I understand how important this moment is. And I understand that many people don’t wanna take any time for them, but I’m gonna give you some tips that can be 10 minutes, five minutes, easy, little things that can really help the physical body and help to create that balance. You wanna plan on the long haul of this because we just don’t know how much time we’re gonna have. These are critically important because you don’t wanna miss this time. We don’t get this time back. So you’re gonna remember this moment, this space forever. And we want it to be full of as much again of a positive experience and it can be as possible. And part of that is making sure that the caregivers getting sleep and nutrition and having some downtime so that they can be present with their loved one.
Speaker 1 (13:59):
So a couple of tips for that. Again, I understand that people don’t wanna, uh, take much time for themselves cuz they’re, you know, they’re in fight or flight they’re in fight or flight. You wanna bring it down and do some homeostasis here. So one of the things that you can do is, again, for 10 minutes, you can go into nature, have somebody, you know, sit with that patient. I, I mean, I’d like you to do more than that. I’d like you to have a few hours off, for sure. We’d like to rotate care, but I’m talking about the very minimal that you can do for self-care and these things recalibrate your energy, going outside, taking a walk in nature or even sitting in the backyard, putting your face in the sun for 10 minutes is just again, something that can really nourish and ground you making sure that you have some respite care, very important to have a period of time that you’re not on that you don’t have to be listening and doing that.
Speaker 1 (14:51):
You can let your cells and your body recalibrate for an hour, two hours. People are good and they want to help. We as doula givers really help coordinate that with many people, but not everyone has that luxury yet. We’re really, again, racing against time, ask somebody, can you sit with my mom for two hours? Can you let me just be off, go take a nap, go rest, whatever it means to you. And the third quick little tip is about making sure that you’re getting water and nutrition. And again, I understand sometimes we don’t even want to eat our, our stomachs are in, in knots. We don’t have time to prepare food, a protein shake, a smooth and water critically important for the health and balance of your body. And here’s what I wanna share with you is when you take care of yourself, you are taking care of that person.
Speaker 1 (15:42):
You love because the more equipped and better you are at feeling at being the better, you’re gonna be able to be there for them. So these are important. So let’s do a recap. Again, these are the five tips on how to care for someone who is dying. Tip number one, be present, be fully present in your energy, ground yourself. Before you go in to see that person, it’ll let you know everything that you need on how to help that person. Number two, meet the person they are emotionally in their journey with, with no judgment, which is number three, but yes, meet them where they are. And it is perfect where they are love them. Don’t judge them, meet them where they are. Number three is don’t judge don’t judge them what they’re saying what’s happening or anything in the, in the dynamic be because again, everything bubbles to the top with family dynamics, with past regrets, with lots of things.
Speaker 1 (16:40):
So please don’t judge show up in that space, you know, of no judgment because universal law, there is no judge judgment. Number four, be of service to set the intention <affirmative> to want to show up to this person, this family, to be of the highest service and just let what comes in, come in your knowing and your heart. And your love is the best medicine you could possibly give and setting that attention to be of service dials, that energetic frequency right there, and number five, practice, self care. And again, these can be things that take five minutes. They’re just, again, an an awareness, the importance of making sure you have a few minutes for nature, a few minutes for, um, downtime. I’d like you to get an hour or two, at least even more. But these are again, the minimum that I’m asking for or you and your families to incorporate when someone gets a terminal diagnosis right now.
Speaker 1 (17:40):
So if you have somebody, you know, ask them, may I come and, and do some respite care for you? Can I, can I sit with your mom? So you can go rest or take a nap or go outside, whatever that is. And again, making sure that you have some nutrition, you can do that easily with smoothies or a protein shake. And of course, water water is one of the most important things. So these are really easy tools for self care. And remember when you’re caring for you, you are caring for everyone else. So thank you very much. This is a time that again, we have got to show up with tools and knowledge and support of one another because we only have one opportunity to have end of life go. Well, we can’t go back and do it again. So today’s podcast was the five tip five tips on how to care for somebody at the end of life. If you found this podcast helpful, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a review, write a comment. And of course, share this podcast with others that you think would benefit. This is so important. This information can change lives and we’re here to do that together. Thank you so much, everyone. This was as AADE do love. My name is Suzanne Brian. I’ll see you in the next episode.