SUSAN BUHLMAN When you’re from outside looking in, you see things that the family doesn't notice. 80 | ART OF DYING My father passed away under hospice care. I was living out of state at the time. Its uncomfortable when you can't be with someone when they're dying. I felt it would be a little bit of a payback if I sat with people in hospice when their family members couldn’t be there. My experience in hospice started out with just simple visits, social calls in the facilities. It grew into my going to people's homes to sit with them so the caregivers could take a break. From there it morphed into where I would go to someone's home every week and get to know the dying person more deeply. As I was spending more time with the same folks, I started to sense how they were feeling as they were dying. When you’re from outside looking in, you see things that the family doesn't notice. It's an emotionally draining time when somebody in your family or a loved one is dying. You're thinking of everything from renting medical equipment to keeping doctor appointments to funeral arrangements and calling Cousin So-and-So to urge him to visit. You get so wrapped up in all of that, that you start to lose sight of the fact that this is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to just sit with this person and help them transition. I found myself filling that role. As I saw how families were so unprepared to work with a dying person, I started taking more upon myself. Death doula certification came next. There's a broad range of definitions for a doula. In the hospice world, it is defined as someone who comes in the last 24 hours when people often have a difficult time being alone. A death doula working independently from hospice has more freedom to expand into different territories, like religious support and memorial planning. When you're associated with hospice, you have to follow their plan. Hospice does a very good job while obeying a lot of federal, Medicare and Medicaid guidelines that are very strict on what volunteers can and cannot do, whether they're a doula or not. The ideal situation is that your friends and family learn of your wishes early on and be there as active transition team members.