An End-of Life (EOL) Doula..
also known as a death doula, provides comfort and support to a dying person and his or her loved ones. The term doula has long been used to describe a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and after childbirth. End-of-Life (EOL) Doulas are non-medical people trained to share resource information, education and companionship with those nearing the end of life. As a birth doula helps usher a child into the world, an end-of-life (EOL) doula helps usher individuals out of the world.
In earlier times, most people died at home, surrounded by loved ones. With the advance of western medicine came the move to increased hospitalization and nursing home care. Although most people would prefer to die at home, many will die in hospitals or nursing homes. Today there is a cultural shift underway that is returning us to more natural death and dying at home. Folks near the end of life are reimagining what death can look like for themselves and their families.
Doulas work with Hospice providers
Far from replacing hospice care or medical support, EOL doulas work with other providers to complement their efforts. All wish to achieve the best possible death for the client. Therefore, EOL doulas focus on being present for the dying and filling gaps in the hospice and medical care support systems. While hospice workers focus primarily on the physical needs of the dying, there is strong recognition among them that pain management is not enough. The spirit must be attended to as well as the body. And there is great need for support of the loved ones of the dying. Doulas are able to spend more time with the family and offer that emotional and spiritual support.
A doula can explain the signs and symptoms of dying to ease fears and concerns of clients and family members. Doulas can be advocates for their clients by learning and promoting individual preferences for care and reporting their observations to the hospice workers. They help the dying reflect on life’s meaning, conduct comforting rituals, read to clients or play favorite music. Doulas may help with errands and household chores. They may assist with physical cares. The help provided will depend on the needs and wishes of the individual.
Meaning in Life & Death
Rather than looking at death as a macabre affair, EOL doulas see each end-of-life journey as a beautiful passage or transition. The goal of the EOL doula is to help make that transition as meaningful, peaceful and fulfilling as possible. That work involves a range of possible activities from suggesting interventions to improve comfort to helping the client understand and create Advance Directives. From planning the Vigil (the last 24-48 hours of the person’s life) to helping write the obituary and eulogy. From making it easier for the client and family to talk about death and end-of-life planning to helping create remembrances. The EOL Doula is there to support the client and their loved ones through the entire end of life journey.
As baby boomers age, new thought is being given to what it means to grow old, how we treat illness and how we die. That thought process is driving this movement to re-examine everything about death, including greater choice in the entire process. EOL doulas are a growing option for many families wishing to reconnect with historical death practices and embrace the process of dying as a natural part of the life cycle.
Advocates In-Home Care has trained EOL doulas on staff ready to support clients and their families through the dying process. The End-of-Life Doulas working with Advocates In-Home Care are certified through Doulagivers.