Contact an end-of-life doula
An end-of-life doula, also known as a death doula, or death midwife, is a trained individual who provides non-medical emotional, physical, logistical, and spiritual support to patients and loved ones during the end-of-life process.
They can help explain how to prepare for a death, what to expect during one’s end-of-life, and help to create a compassionate environment for the person who is dying and their loved ones.
Doulas support the dying by helping manage a death in the best way possible for the dying person. Through planning for end-of-life, clearer communication and coordination can exist between healthcare professionals, families, and the dying.
Good to Know Some seek doula support as soon as they receive a terminal diagnosis, others may be further along and closer to end of life, or some doula may be asked for support after a death to help with logistics and grief.
Death doulas work in a variety of settings, including homes, hospitals, hospices, and and may be a solo practitioner or work in a group collective. Typically, death doulas are not medical professionals, but they may work alongside healthcare professionals to ensure that an individual's physical needs are met and their end-of-life wishes are respected.
Providers Speaking with a death doula at any stage of the end-of-life process, whether planning for the future, dealing with a terminal situation, or coping with the recent loss of a loved one can offer compassion and insight.
How can death doulas help a dying person and their families?
In addition to providing compassionate and non-judgmental support to patients and their families, end-of-life doulas also:
- Help a dying person reflect upon their life and values, and create a comfortable environment which can improve their quality of life and provide a sense of dignity and respect
- Create a safe place to speak openly and honestly about death and the end-of-life process both physically and emotionally
- Provide guidance in end-of-life planning, help make practical arrangements, such as contacting funeral homes and filling out paperwork, and document decisions, which can help to ensure that an individual's end-of-life wishes are respected
- Support the spiritual and religious practices of a family, and help create meaningful ceremonies and rituals to honor the deceased
- Help reduce stress and anxiety by providing emotional support for the family as they grieve and adjust to loss, and may also help guide conversations with children about death and grief
- Provide respite and ease the physical and emotional burden on caregivers
- Offer information and resources on grief and bereavement, such as books, articles, or support groups
- Provide continuity of care by being available to a family and loved ones after the death
How do I know if I need a death doula?
The decision to hire a death doula depends on personal circumstance, needs and preferences; there is no one definitive answer as to whether or not they are needed.
However, families and caretakers may find it beneficial to work with a death doula if they:
- Seek to create a legacy project to leave for others
- Have a loved one nearing the end of their life and want to ensure that they have a compassionate experience.
- Want help creating a meaningful and personalized funeral or memorial service that honors the person who has died
- Are unsure of the legal and practical requirements for funerals and memorial services and need assistance
- Want to include personal rituals or customs in the funeral or memorial service
- Hope to create a plan for when they are actively dying
- Are dealing with the loss of a loved one and need support and guidance in the grieving process
If you are considering hiring a death doula, it may be helpful to speak with one to get a better understanding of what they can offer and how they can provide support.
What questions should I ask a death doula before hiring one?
When considering hiring a death doula, it’s helpful to ask them some questions to better understand who they are, their qualifications, approach, and services.
This can help determine if they are the right fit for you and those around you. Some questions include:
- What is your training and experience?
- How do you work with families?
- How do you handle difficult situations?
- What are your fees and what services do they include?
- Do you have references from other families that you have supported?
- How do you handle end-of-life wishes and how do you help to make sure they are respected?
- How do you work with other healthcare professionals?
- How do you provide bereavement support after a death?
When should I speak with a death doula?
Because they help with many parts of the end-of-life process, it’s helpful to speak with a death doula as early as possible.
However, you may prefer to speak with them during certain stages. Some examples include:
- If you want to plan for your own end-of-life care and want guidance and support
- When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, or has a serious health condition that may to lead to death in the near future
- When a loved one has died and you need support and guidance in the grieving process
How are death doulas different from hospice workers or funeral directors?
Death doulas, hospice workers, and funeral directors, all provide support to individuals and families during the end-of-life process. However, they have different roles and responsibilities.
Hospice workers provide medical care and support individuals nearing the end of their lives. They typically work in hospice care facilities or in a patient’s home, and provide support to families and caregivers helping them understand what to expect and how to prepare for the end-of-life process.
Funeral directors are responsible for the practical arrangements of funerals and memorial services. They typically help families to plan and carry out these events and arrange for final disposition of the body, whether it’s cremation or burial at a cemetery.
Death doulas, on the other hand, help families navigate the entire end-of-life process, including interactions with hospice and funeral homes. They provide emotional, practical, and spiritual support to individuals and families during end-of-life and grief.
How much does a death doula cost?
The cost of hiring a death doula can vary widely depending on location, level of experience, and services provided. Typically, death doulas do not work for a larger business, they are independent practitioners and as such their fees can vary.
Some death doulas charge an hourly rate, while others may charge a flat fee for a set package of services and total costs can range from $300 to $2,500, although it can be more expensive in larger cities or metropolitan areas.
Others may offer a sliding scale fee based on the client's ability to pay, so it’s important to speak with them about your circumstance and understand what services are included in their fees. There are many doulas who volunteer their services. Be sure to ask up front about pricing structure.
Some insurance policies may also cover the cost of end-of-life doula services, and some hospices may offer doula services as part of their package. Check with your, or the deceased’s insurance provider to see if they cover this service or if there is any reimbursement available.
In general, hiring a death doula can be an investment, but for many families it can be a valuable one. Death doulas can provide a wealth of emotional, practical, and spiritual support that can help to make the end-of-life process more peaceful and meaningful for the individual and their loved ones.
What type of training is required of a death doula?
The training required to become a death doula can vary depending on the organization offering the training and certification. However, most death doula training programs include some combination of the following:
- Education on end-of-life care, including the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of dying
- Training on how to provide emotional and practical support to individuals and families
- End-of-life planning, including information on legal and practical requirements for funerals and memorial services
- Training on how to create a peaceful and comfortable environment for the person who is dying
- Cultural and religious end-of-life practices and how to respect and support diverse end-of-life wishes
- How to work with healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to ensure that the individual's physical needs are met and that their end-of-life wishes are respected
- Education on self-care and how to deal with the emotional and physical demands of the work
- Practical experience, such as shadowing experienced death doulas or participating in a supervised internship
- Some certification programs may require a certain number of hours of training, while others may have a specific curriculum that must be completed
Good to Know Death doulas are not regulated by any government body and there is no national certification or license for death doulas. Certification can come from a variety of organizations, but it's important to research the organization and their standards, to ensure that they are reputable.
How can a death doula help plan a funeral?
Death doulas provide valuable support and guidance to families during the funeral planning process, helping them to create meaningful and personalized ceremonies.
A death doula can help with the funeral planning process by:
- Providing information on the different options available for funerals and memorial services, such as traditional funeral, cremation options, green funerals, and home funerals
- Helping families understand the legal and practical requirements for funerals and memorial services
- Assisting the family in creating ceremonies that honors the deceased, whether it is a religious ceremony or secular service
- Helping to prepare for and carry out any personal rituals or customs that the dying person wishes to include in the funeral or memorial service, such as a candle lighting ceremony, a tree planting ceremony, or a scattering of ashes
- Offering support and resources for the family as they grieve, such as bereavement support groups, grief counseling, and grief support books
Is a death doula like a birth doula?
A death doula and a birth doula share many similarities because they both provide emotional, practical, physical, and spiritual support to individuals and their families during a significant life transition.
Some of the ways in which death doulas and birth doulas are similar include:
- Both provide “continuity of care,” meaning that they are with the patient and family throughout the entire process, from beginning to end
- Both doulas assist in creating a peaceful and comfortable environment
- Both doulas help everyone understand what to expect and how to prepare
- Both doulas provide emotional and practical support, such as helping to make decisions and providing information and resources
- Both doulas are trained to provide support in a non-judgmental and compassionate manner
- Some people are full spectrum doulas meaning the serve people at the beginning of life and the end
What is the history of death doulas in the United States?
The concept of a death doula is relatively new in the United States, with the term "death doula" first emerging in the early 2000s, as a way to describe the work of professionals who provided non-medical support to individuals and families during the end-of-life process.
The field of death doulas has grown in popularity in recent years, as more and more people have become interested in finding ways to make the end-of-life process more peaceful and meaningful. However the idea of sitting bedside vigil has been occurring for many millennia in cultures around the world.
The hospice movement in the late 1960’s emphasized the importance of addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the individual and family, and was provided in the patient's home rather than in a hospital setting. This approach to end-of-life care laid the foundation for the development of the death doula profession.
Death doulas are becoming more common in the United States, with many organizations and training programs now offering education and certification. The field is still relatively new and continues to evolve, but the death doulas are increasingly being recognized as an important part of the end-of-life care team.
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End-of-life Doulas Near You
An end-of-life doula can provide physical, logistical, and spiritual support to patients and loved ones during the end-of-life process