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Just as you would hire a birth doula for a birth, a death doula or death midwife, is someone, usually a registered nurse, who helps give support to those who are facing death along with their families. The idea of having a death doula help during the last stages of sickness is becoming more common as a source of comfort and emotional support to the individual dying and their family.
What Does a Death Doula Do?
A death doula combines emotional support for those who are dying either in a hospice, palliative care, or at home. While hospices and hospitals have excellent health care, they usually don’t have the resources and time available to assist a dying person over the course of many hours during the dying process. For example, the average death doula will spend around 80 – 100 hours with individuals offering support during the dying process.
Many death doulas are also registered nurses or social workers who will be able to supply basic healthcare support. Many also can help with end of life tasks such as helping the dying individual with their last will and testament or advanced directives, however, you should always consult an attorney when making changes or drafting legal documents. Doulas tend to be flexible with their support, helping families with tasks such as taking pictures or even helping to plan the funeral ahead of time. Things such as giving family members, who are often very emotional and sleep-deprived a moment to go out and get food or take a nap, while knowing someone else is there that can update them. It is help with these simple tasks that can greatly alleviate some of the unnecessary stress and anxiety from family members who are already emotional and anticipating the loss of their loved one.
Even if you do not necessarily need a death doula to be present they can be helpful to the family in simply talking them through the dying process and giving advice. Some death doulas will even do this over phone or videoconference if that is something you should choose.
Is There a Certification Program?
Death doulas currently have no credentialing system or governing body, however, the Lifespan Doula Association (LDA) and the University of Vermont have training programs and offer certification. There is also the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), which operates training programs across the nation and has been certifying death doulas since 2016. These programs can take the average person anywhere between six to nine months of training, including hands-on training.
Due to death doulas being an unregulated profession it is best to interview a doula ahead of time as well as contact references by phone.
Does a Death Doula Replace a Faith Leader?
This is a personal question and the answer is: “It depends“. A death doula and a faith leader occupy some overlapping areas, such as providing emotional support to both the individual dying and family members who are present. However, a death doula will likely spend more time and have more of a focus on care, while a faith leader will focus more on religious practices and helping everyone involved through prayer and other religious activities. It would be a mistake to assume that they are mutually exclusive. Both individuals can be mutually reinforcing in many circumstances.
How Do You Find a Death Doula?
Death doulas are normally found and hired by patients or family members, so if you are responsible for a loved one’s healthcare or you are yourself a caregiver you will be responsible for hiring one if that is something you choose to do. The best place to start is the INELDA Doula Directory.
How Much Does it Cost?
You will have to ask the doula what they charge and whether they charge a lump sum or by the hour. Rates tend to be in the $30 – $100 per hour range, depending on the circumstances. It is most likely that they will not take insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid; however, you should ask if any of these options are available to you.
While many people are unaware of death midwives, just like birth doulas giving support to families going through the birthing process, so death doulas provide support and care to an individual and their family during the death process. Having someone who has both medical and practical experience with death can be incredibly comforting to not only the individual passing away but their family who may not have much, if any, experience with the dying process and the emotional impact of losing a loved one.
The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.