Death Doula

Also known as: End-of-Life Doula, Death Midwife

Last Updated: September 1, 2020

Written by the Open Caregiving Team. Editorial review by Joyce O. Murphy RN, MSN.

What is a death doula?

A death doula is someone who provides companionship and support during life’s final days and hours. They assure that comfort measures are in place as well as attend to emotional needs. A doula does not need to be a healthcare professional to fulfill the role.

What does a death doula do?

A death doula provides holistic care and guidance for a person’s end of life. This includes documenting a person’s closing wishes. The doula then assures fulfillment of these wishes.

What types of support do end-of-life doulas provide?

People who are dying may not wish to share their fears and anxieties with loved ones. The doula is someone with whom a dying person can safely share their innermost thoughts. Death doulas will:

  • Guide preparation of an end-of-life plan that:
    • Expresses comfort measure wishes.
    • States where a person prefers to pass.
    • Notes important privacy measures.
    • Underscores the importance of family-centered care.
    • Shares a person’s hopes for their mind, body, and spirit care.
  • Complement care that is provided by healthcare staff, such as hospice nurses and home health aides.
  • Observe each unique end-of-life situation:
    • They watch the interactions between the person in their care and family or friends.
    • They inquire as needed based on what they see and hear. This can help to draw out information about concerns or preferences.
  • Educate families about wake, life remembrance, and burial options.

What are the settings in which death doulas provide care?

Death doulas provide care wherever needed. That may be as part of hospice care:

The doula is there to assure hour-by-hour presence and companionship, regardless of the setting.

How does someone become a death doula?

Training is recommended for those who wish to become a death doula. Currently, there is no government certification required for this role although some death doula training programs offer certification. Many hospice providers provide death doula training.

How do I find a death doula near me?

The need for death doulas is increasing with the aging population and interest in positive death experiences. Ask your local hospice agency or undertakers about doulas in your area.

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