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What is a Death Doula?

The interest in end-of-life issues that has blossomed in the past twenty years has given rise to a specialized role of Death Doula, also called End-of-Life Doula or Specialist. Parallel in structure to the more familiar birth doulas, death doulas offer non-medical support to people as they approach end of life. Unlike hospice, the work of a doula is not covered by Medicare. Some doulas work for free, others operate as a small business owner who may charge for their services.

Services offered by doulas may vary, and can include:

  • Clarification and completion of Life Planning Documents / Advance Care Directives (Living Will, Health Care Powers of Attorney). Pssst! Everyone over 18 years of age should have these completed, even in good health!

  • Legacy Work: what do you want to communicate to friends and family before you die? What defines your life experience? What is left unsaid or unwritten? This may be written, recorded, or video-taped for your loved ones to cherish.

  • Care coordinator to communicate with your care team, including medical professionals, family near and far, friends, neighbors, hospice services, and more.

  • Aesthetic guidance and sensory support in creating an environment that supports your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

  • Medical literacy and paperwork guidance and completion. In addition to advance planning documents, there may be forms to complete and boxes to check, which can be especially burdensome as we approach end of life.

  • Grief education, support, and resource referrals.

  • Obituary writing and submission.

A good doula will be well-versed in many aspects of death and dying, and should be especially attentive to the unique needs of the individual.

For more information about working with or becoming a death doula, check out the two organizations below:

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