Advice

What is a Death Doula, What Do They Do and How Do You Find One?

There is one guarantee in life. One day, we all die. In all honesty, death scares me. Losing people scares me.  Now I’m a prudent planner. My plans have plans, and they have backup plans. I like to make things easy on those I love, and when it comes to the final part of my life, I’d like to take as much of the burden off my loved ones as I can. That’s where death doulas (or end of life doulas) come in, and I’m all for it.

What is an End of Life Doula?

A ‘Death Doula’, ‘End of Life’ Doula (EOLD) or ‘Death Midwife’ is a person who assists a dying person and their family in preparing for the death of the individual by offering support, guidance, and companionship. They generally work with families whose loved one has been given a diagnosis and have limited time left to spend with their family.

elderly lady lying in bed with terminal illness with sister nearby being tended to by a death doula
Source: Supplied

How does a Death Doula work? 

In essence, they help you plan for your death, explain what the experience leading up to death may be like (both for you and your family), assist you with planning funeral arrangements, and may stay overnight for comfort, care for and accompany the patient in their final hours.

When a person is terminally ill and near death, their family and friends are also dealing with their own complex emotions while trying to stay strong for their loved one. Sometimes, these emotions can prevent them from facing death in a way that would help their dying loved one to pass over peacefully.

An End of Life Doula is someone experienced in this dying process who can not only provide comfort and safety for the patient and their family but also allow for open conversations about death, dying, and supporting the family with their grief.

Are Death Doulas medical professionals?

In short, no, end-of-life doulas aren’t medical professionals. However, training is available across Australia for anyone wanting to pursue a career as an ‘EOLD’. Certification is currently recommended but not mandated across Australia, unlike Doctors or Nurses, Death Doulas are hired by the terminal person’s family to assist them with the process.

old-woman-laying-in-bed-with-terminal-illness-death-doula
Source: Supplied

How do End of Life Doulas provide end of life care?

Quite importantly, the role of an End of Life Doula is to fill an emotional need that hospitals and hospice care can sometimes overlook. Not because they want to, but because the services of a Death Doula are specifically focused on supporting the person and their family through the dying phase.

They are here for you and your family. These Doulas explain everything to you in simple terms to help you prepare emotionally and physically for not only the passing but also for what happens next in the leadup so that you can feel prepared and emotionally ready for what comes next. They can organise a living funeral if you want. Download a handy list of questions to Ask a Doula, together with a Fact Sheet on what you can expect your Doula to do. 

Why would I want to hire one?

End of Life Doulas provide a shoulder to cry on that isn’t weighed down by the intimate grief of losing someone near and dear to you. They can act as an advocate for you if you can’t advocate for yourself through your grief. They take some of the burden during this highly emotional and private time. They can even sit beside the dying individual as they take their final breath, offering comfort and support.

They believe the end of life is something to be cherished, as is the beginning of life.

How do I find an End of Life Doula?

Do your research. Read reviews of their other clients.

  • Consider your preferred communication style. Do you prefer to work with someone remotely, or would you like them to come to your home or hospice?)
  • Do you have a specific need around gender, ethnicity, race, religion, or culture?
  • What is your budget?
  • How involved do you want them to be?

Choosing a Death Doula is about helping you and your loved one become as comfortable and in control as possible. Take your time finding a doula who will fit your needs and expectations – interview more than one, ask all the questions and be totally confident in the person you choose. This is an intensely personal decision.

Some palliative care units have contact information for End of Life Doulas. There are websites dedicated to listing all the Doulas, both available in your area and remotely.

They include

Death doesn’t have to be scary. There are many ways to die, both peacefully and with dignity. Finding the right person to walk you through such a difficult time can make a world of difference to you and your family.

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Avatar of Tina Evans

Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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