The following content appeared in the Press Times’ Wise Living column on Friday, October 30. The Press Times is a Green Bay area publication that runs weekly. Visit their website at https://gopresstimes.com/contact-us/
Dear Wise Living,
My mother has been chronically ill with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) for many years. It has progressed a great deal in the past year, resulting in frequent hospitalizations to get her comfortable again. These episodes are more and more often. Can you tell me about your service as a Life Doula? How would you help her, and our family, as her disease continues?
It’s hard to watch someone you love live with a chronic disease like CHF, but when the disease starts to progress it gets really tough. The frequent visits to the Emergency Department only serve temporarily to regain her comfort as symptoms are managed medically. Until the next time.
I had a client a few years ago with a similar situation. That family reached out to me for support since it had been a truly taxing experience for all of them. Their own emotional ties often colored the choices for more and more aggressive treatment that they encouraged their father towards. They recognized that the entire family needed support as they now wanted to more fully honor and respect his own wishes as his disease progressed.
When I met with the family, I explained how my role as a Life Doula offers non-medical support and deep mindfulness presence, helping everyone feel more peaceful and open. In this way, my role becomes about respect and guidance, as I walk with my clients and their loved ones. I use my presence and active listening to allow each family member to share feelings, encourage deep conversations, and to open more fully to one another. Their father was able to clearly tell them that he was ready to accept that his heart was declining and wanted to be kept comfortable, allowing him to spend his remaining days with family and friends. I was then able to use my extensive nursing experience to help guide the family to get palliative care/hospice support, and to encourage their use of the medications and oxygen as their medical plan of care instructed.
This became a beautiful time period for this family. Without the intense anxiety that their father’s symptoms created, and with having tools to help restore his comfort, the adult children felt enormous stress relief. Now free of the need to fix or prevent what their father’s disease was creating allowed them to spend time lovingly caring for their father. They had deep conversations, shared many memories, and their father was able to express his own regrets, find forgiveness, and share his deepest love for each them privately. Before his final days, he told me that he had come to realize that his life did hold meaning for his family and others. He had found great peace and was ready to leave when his time came.
As a Life Doula, I often walk with people throughout their aging and into their decline from many chronic diseases. I also am called to work with someone in crisis or much closer to their death. Whenever someone feels ready for support, affirmation, and a deeply compassionate and loving companion is the right time for my involvement. It is a true honor to share myself so fully: I’m able to bring all of my education and experience while offering my deepest self in total respect, acceptance, and dignity.
For more information about Marggie’s role as a Nurse Advocate and Life Doula, visit https://ikormidwest.com