Does Palliative Care Include Death Doulas?

Are you familiar with the new profession that is gaining popularity across the nation, that of the death doulas? Most of us link doulas to childbirth, but this new group of professionals assists with the other end of the life spectrum — death.

Dealing With Death

We live in times when almost all critically ill individuals die in a hospital or a palliative care center unless the end is sudden. When you think about it though, you’ll realize that dying in a hospital, often alone, can be a harrowing experience.

We have come a long way from the days when people breathed their last in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their loved ones. Those were the times when death was considered an integral part of life and there was no fear attached to dying. While we have made immense progress in the field of medicine, many of us are now afraid to acknowledge death and rarely discuss it unless required.

Death is a difficult concept to grasp, both for the person who is ill and for the family and friends, and that’s where a death doula can step in. These individuals are trained to provide companionship to the dying and their families, to help them cope with the scary and unknown realm of death.

The Emergence of Death Doulas

The word doula originated from Greek, where it denoted a woman servant. Over the years, its meaning has changed to denote a woman who helps with childbirth and now is also applied to both genders who help make death a peaceful experience.

The increase in palliative care centers across the nation and the globe reflect the loneliness experienced by many who are critically ill and have no one to take care of them. And while these centers cater to the basic medical needs of these individuals, not many provide the emotional support that is required during these trying times.

A doula is trained to do just that — talk, listen and provide comfort. These volunteers are trained to build a relationship with the patient and often their families. They may even help the family prepare for the final goodbyes.

Since death is a difficult topic to discuss, especially with the person who is ill, family members often approach the death doulas to discuss delicate matters like planning the funeral and other personal details. A doula, who may have built a very close relationship with the dying person, is often in a better position to gather such information and relay it to the family. They may even help the family gather items like photographs and videos that denote precious memories of the person and support the family as they move toward the person’s final days.

If you or someone you know has a family member who is awaiting their end, consider hiring a death doula who can ease the pain of dealing with death and also help you cope with the loss of a loved one.


References

Blumberg, A. (2017, June 05). More People Are Dying Alone Than Ever Before. ‘Death Doulas’ Want To Change That. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/end-of-life-doulas_us_591cbce2e4b03b485cae51c2

Stevens, S. (2018, July 23). Looking for a life-affirming new career? Become a ‘death doula’. Retrieved from https://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/responsible-living/stories/looking-life-affirming-new-career-become-death-doula

Death Doulas and End of Life Care. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-death-doulas-can-help-people-at-the-end-of-their-life#8