1.What is a Death Doula?
A Death Doula is a non-medical person trained to care for someone holistically (physically, emotionally and spiritually) at the end of life. Death Doulas are also known around the world as: end of life coaches, soul midwives, transition guides. death coaches, doula to the dying, end of life doulas, death midwives, and end of life guides.
2. What do Death Doulas do?
Death Doulas are people who support people in the end-of-life process, much like a doula with the birthing process. It is “a new non-medical profession” that recognizes death as a natural, accepted, and sacred part of life. One might say that death doulas are to hospice palliative care as birth doulas are to obstetrics.
Death Doulas can:
• Help create positive, empowering end of life plans.
• Provide spiritual care, psychological and social support.
• Suggest ideas for optimal physical comfort.
• Help plan home vigils.
• Educate patients and families on the new and progressive options of home wakes and natural burials.
3.What type of holistic support do Death Doulas provide?
Death Doulas care for the whole person, taking into account patients’ emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical factors. They provide invaluable assistance in three notable areas of holistic support:
Identify Acute Issues: Identify all acute issues and suggest interventions to provide tight symptom management leading to the highest quality of daily living for both the patient and the loved ones. Optimum comfort is our goal for every day!
Legacy: We are all born, and we all die. It’s what we do in the middle that creates our legacy. What we leave behind is far more than simply wealth and possessions. We can share our story or give wisdom, advice, love, and support even after we have passed. And in doing so, give the future a glimpse of your essence – who you were, how you saw the world, and what gave your life purpose. Death Doulas can help patients with the powerful and uplifting process of developing a legacy plan.
Presence: The last phase of our life can stir fear and anxiety as we each face our end-of-life. This is simply because we have not walked this path before. Having someone present with the experience and training in such a time can bring a sense of comfort and familiarity to the otherwise unfamiliar. Death Doulas provide holistic support as they accompany individuals and their families before, during, and after death.
Dignity: Everyone wants to have a positive passing where they maintain dignity and honor as they exit life. We all have our own values, traditions, and belief systems that will influence our vision and expectation of what that would look like. Creating an environment that represents that vision is important. This, along with developing a legacy and being present is what an End-of-Life Doula brings to you and your family.
4.Are There any National Initiatives or Organizations Supporting the Death Doula Profession?
Yes! In the last two years, the End-of-Life Doula Profession has gone mainstream both nationally and internationally.
On the national level there is NEDA (The National End of Life Doula Alliance). NEDA is a national membership organization for all End-of-Life Doulas and Trainers. They also have a national badge that after completing the Doulagivers End of Life Doula Training you can take for an additional national credential. We recommend that all of our Doulas that want to practice professionally get their NEDA proficiency badge.
NATIONAL HOSPICE AND PALLIATIVE CARE ORGANIZATION’S End of Life Doula Council
The End-of-Life Doula (EOLD) Advisory Council provides information and resources to NHPCO, its members, affiliated organizations, and the general public to promote awareness and understanding of the end-of-life doula role.
5.If I have a Death Doula, do I still need Hospice?
Yes. Remember, Hospice manages the care, and the loved ones do the caring. The Hospice Nurse teaches the family how to care for their loved one. Hospice, unfortunately, has a very limited amount of time that they can be at the bedside of the dying. This is where Doulas come in. Hospice also supplies a multi-disciplined team of support and resources, including medication and equipment. The End-of-Life Doula will “guide” the family based on the Doula’s extensive end of life knowledge and expertise. The Doula will also assess the education level of the caregivers and discuss what the loved ones understand on how to care for their loved one – a process that will change as the patient’s conditions change. The Doula may advise families to call Hospice to go over information regarding medications, how to administer medications, and/or hands-on care.
6.What is the Projected Future for the Death Doula Profession?
People are readily embracing this new area of end-of-life planning, and the field is rapidly gaining momentum. In 2014, the National Institutes of Health released a report Dying in America in which they discussed the future of end-of-life care. This report declared that there is need for professionals such as Death Doulas and to move towards:
• Person-centered, family-oriented end of life care models
• An increase in education and higher standard for Advance Care Planning
• Better-trained end of life care providers
Many end-of-life care experts agree that over the course of the next decade, there will be a great rise in demand for alternative care services in order to accommodate the aging Baby Boomer generation and keep people at home during end of life (rather than residential care facilities).
Washington Post Article April 5th, 2021
Biden jobs plan seeks $400 billion to expand caretaking services as U.S. faces surge in aging population
President Biden’s jobs plan proposes a massive investment in home care for the elderly and people with disabilities, as America’s caretaking system faces strain from the nation’s looming demographic changes and the multifaceted challenges that will accompany them.
The White House’s American Jobs Plan calls for spending about $400 billion over eight years on “home or community-based care” for the elderly and people with disabilities.
There has never been a more important time than now to support both patients and families with specialized, non-medical alternative healthcare. Death Doulas are an intricate and integral part of reshaping end of life care for the future.
7.How do I become a Death Doula?
Due to the enormous number of the elder population, there is an overwhelming need for these types of services and support. Finding the right teacher and training program is one of the most important decisions you will make. There are many wonderful programs and teachers. Please do your homework and make sure that the curriculum matches what you want to learn as they can be very different. The International Doulagivers Institute, founded by Suzanne B. O’Brien RN, provides the highest level of education and certification for Death Doulas.
Doulagivers Institute is an internationally recognized leader in end-of-life training programs and care. Our organization provides a well-rounded program that focuses not only on the patient, but the loved ones as well. It is a fully comprehensive program that covers everything from how to care for individuals from the time of a terminal diagnosis all the way through the time of death and helping the loved ones “reenter life after loss.” We teach Doulas how to connect and support their communities with free education as well as everything the Doula needs to start their new Doulagivers business and the necessary continued support thereafter.