Doulas help people who are dying and their families to feel safe and supported, and this non-medical role is growing in popularity. Here’s what you should know about end-of-life planning and the role of a doula.
Sometimes referred to as ‘soul midwives’ or ‘transition coaches’, end-of-life doulas not only share their name with childbirth doulas, they have a similar mission, which is to assist and accompany. However, instead of offering support to people at the beginning of life, they support people at the end of life and make it more comfortable and natural for them to die at home if they want to – this means supporting the dying person and those around them. After all, deciding to care for a loved one at home can have a major impact on family life. Doulas strive to maintain the best quality of life possible for everyone involved.
Do they replace medical care?
No. Centuries ago, people traditionally died at home surrounded by family members, however the rise of modern medicine, hospitals and hospices has meant that this is often no longer the case. But that doesn’t mean that death can’t be an intimate, spiritual and peaceful experience, regardless of whether medical support is required. Doulas do not replace medical care, but help family and friends access all available information as they support someone in their final hours, days or weeks.
Doulas are sensitive to practical, emotional and spiritual needs, and offer a consistent and compassionate presence, with knowledge, experience and understanding. Their role is to preserve the quality of wellbeing, sense of identity and self-worth from the moment of diagnosis through to the death of the person they are caring for.
How can they help me?
It’s a very flexible role that’s tailored to individual circumstances, and a doula’s responsibilities can be agreed following an initial discussion. They might only work with the dying, or they might help out with day-to-day tasks to give you more time to spend with the person who is dying. This can mean cooking, cleaning or playing with the kids.
They can also assist by talking to care agencies, doctors and nurses, helping to translate medical jargon and asking questions that you might not have thought of at the time. And, when the moment comes, end-of-life doulas are there to support the bereaved and help with funeral arrangements if required.
How can I find out more?
Living Well Dying Well (LWDW) is an organisation aimed at encouraging conversations about death and finding ways to support people’s wellbeing at the end of their lives. Today they run courses for people facing death or the death of someone close, offer workshops for therapists and health practitioners, and provide end-of-life doula training courses. They also partner with a number of death cafes to host discussion groups about death and dying.
Remember, if you need extra assistance following the death of a loved one, we can help you locate and compare funeral directors and the services they offer in your area.