End of Life Doula

I’ve Heard of a Birth Doula–But What’s An End of Life Doula?

A Doulagivers End-of-Life Doula is a non-medical professional who is trained to provide holistic care (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) to an individual and their family throughout the various end of life stages. Doulas are known throughout the world by various names: End-of-Life Doula, End of Life Coaches, Death Doula, Soul Midwives, Transition Guides, Death Midwives, Thanadoulas, and Doulagivers.

An End of Life Doula is a companion to someone who is dying and the dying person’s loved ones. An End of Life Doula is a non-medical person who gives support physically, emotionally and spiritually to someone else. They may also be medically trained nurses, doctors, home health aides etc.–but need not be a medical professional to serve in this specific role. The End of Life Doula’s job is to be a supportive presence to the dying and the loved ones of the dying.

What Does an End of Life Doula Do?

A Certified End-of-Life Doula is someone who works with a client and their loved ones from the point of a terminal diagnosis or life-limiting condition, through the bereavement period shared by the loved ones. This individual can even help with planning for the aging process, and the paper work that often goes along with it.

Having been trained in the three phases of end of life care, the doula can be a resource for the client and the family. Explaining what they are experiencing and offering appropriate suggestions that they may or may not consider to do for comfort for the patient. Some examples of what a doula can do:

  • Companion to the dying and the dying persons loved ones.
  • Suggesting interventions for comfort.
  • Helping to facilitate unresolved issues
  • Advanced Directives
  • Planning the Vigil
  • End of life Planning
  • Writing the Obituary
  • Writing the Eulogy
  • Creating Remembrances
  • Assist The Dying Toward Finding Peace and Acceptance-Helping the patient to find meaning in their life and What Their Contribution Has Been to this Life
  • Support the Patient and Their Loved Ones through the Entire End of Life Journey

What Will A Doula Not Do

The End of Life Doula is not a home health aid and is not there to do any hands on care e.g. Bathing, toileting, feeding etc. If the doula wants to help with any of these duties that will be up to his or her discretion and will be strictly voluntary. The EOLD is there to only serve a companion to the dying and their loved ones.

The Doula does not make ANY decisions related to end of life care for the client directly. The Doula will not project their own beliefs and will always remain non-judgmental.

What Sort of Training Is Available for the End of Life Doula?

The Doulagivers End of Life Doula Training program was created out of pure need and necessity over ten years ago, by Suzanne O’Brien, RN and Author of “Creating Positive Passings”. 9/10 people want to be kept at home if terminally ill, yet half are dying in the hospital. Source: Gallup poll 1996 National Hospice Organization. Hospice and Oncology Nurse Suzanne B. O’Brien RN created her End of Life Doula program, “Because families were so overwhelmed and frightened to care for their dying loved one at home. In our society today, we don’t even talk about death let alone plan for it,” said O’Brien RN. The other very important fact O’Brien says is, “Most people do not understand what hospice really does. Hospice is an amazing organization filled with legions of hard working people but they cannot be with their patients 24/7. Hospice teaches the family to be the caregiver. Under such stressful conditions (death is the 2nd leading fear in this country) very little teaching can actually be accomplished or retained. I have seen end of life be 100x harder for both patient and their loved ones due to the lack of preparation for this natural part of life’s journey”.

This is where the end of life doula comes in. Hospice acts as the medical case manager, while the doula can bridge any gaps between Hospice and the family. Thus allowing Hospice to do what they do amazingly well and allowing the patient to concentrate on the remaining time they have left with their loved ones.
This is where Doulagivers steps in. Our doulas have been proven time and again to be the most thoroughly trained doulas. Certified End of Life Doulas fill the gap between hospice and the family.

International Doulagivers Institute offers 3 levels to the Doulagivers training program. Level 1 is for caregivers of all kinds. “Everyone should be taught the basic skills to care for theirdying before anyone actually becomes ill” said O’Brien. Level 1 is offered for a free/donation basis and is now part of the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Cares’ Global education directory. Level 2 is the Intensive Caregiver training for those who want a more in-depth understanding. Level 2 includes the top 10 End of life disease processes and common EOL medications. The Level 3 is for Certificate End of Life Doulas. Our professional Doulas in training also take a rigorous final exam and complete 30 clinical hours of experience prior to certification. Professional doulas in training are fully prepared to go on and take The National End of Life Doula Alliance Exam.

A Doulagiver End of Life Doula agrees to a ”scope of practice” which includes everything from the time of a terminal diagnosis to helping patients and families as the illness progresses, to helping with funeral preparations, to the vigil, time of death, after death care, understanding and honoring grief, and finally recovery of life after loss.

Molly Welch, CEOLD

I began researching the emerging End of Life Doula field upon the suggestion of my friend. I agreed that I had felt the calling to perform and serve as an EOL Doula. While I am trained to serve as a doula for the top 10 end of life disease processes, I have had hands on experience serving patients as a doula who have had or did have a variety of rarer conditions–some were end of life*, while others were experience in advanced or crisis support doula roles. I have experience in supporting persons with:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer*
  • Aplastic Thyroid Cancer*
  • Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (all 8 Stages of Recovery – Ranchos Scale)
  • Dementia

My other passions include supporting autonomy and choices in end-of-life, as well as respect and deference for the chosen cultural practices, spiritual beliefs, or absences of spiritual belief of my clients and will always advocate for their chosen expression of divinity or humanism. I am an advocate for death positivity–and have agreed to all tenets proposed by the Order of the Good Death, and will champion green or greener funeral practices for those who wish to pursue those practices at the end of life. In fact, I earned Certificate of Proficiency in Green Funeral Service granted by the Green Burial Council after taking the Green Burial Council’s pre-requisite studies offered by the Mid-America College of Funeral Service. I was so inspired by this course of study that I studied all of the materials offered by the National Home Funeral Alliance so that I could pass the proficiency exam offered to Home Funeral Guides to advocate on behalf of home funeral families and hybrid funeral families, and to be able to build bridges across the deathcare continuum with the many amazing and dedicated conventional family funeral professionals who I’ve grown to know and admire in Evansville, Indiana. I believe firmly in Dr. Billy Campbell’s ideas of preserving 1,000,000 acres for 2000 years through beautiful, sustainable conservation burial and deathcare. Professionally, my future endeavors and dreams include operating what I call a “safe passage dome” and conservation burial ground right here in Evansville, Indiana and to travel the countryside educating and advocating–and training families to care for their dying in home environments, and maybe even raising up other doulas to improve the welfare of the dying and their homeland along the way!

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