The word doula is derived from the Greek language, meaning "woman who serves". During the 1960's the term was borrowed and applied to the role of a female who takes the role of a birth coach who is present at the birth of a child. Birth doulas work alongside the midwife to provide advice, emotional and spiritual comfort as well as practical assistance to the mother and to gently lead the newborn into the world. End of life doulas offer support during the process of dying, offering non-medical, holistic comfort care for those at the end stage of life. End of life doulas are also known as: end of life coaches, soul midwives, transition guides, death coaches, death doulas, doula to the dying, death midwives, thanadoula, and end of life guides.
There is a new flourishing movement to provide awareness, additional care, education and support at the end of life. Often people are not dying in ways that reflect their values and how they have lived their lives up until they face their mortality. There are now brilliant and motivated people who are seeking to transform our current death denying systems which often fail and create needless suffering. End of life doulas are a part of the movement for positive change. We are moving away from dying as an institutionalized and medicalized experience towards it being one of life's most honored and sacred transitions.
The number of baby boomers living in the United States is an estimated 74.1 million as of 2016. There is a widely held misconception that all seniors have family they can fall back on to help them manage their challenges and care around sickness, aging and dying. Almost 20% of baby boomers do not have children and according to US. Census Bureau data, nearly one-third of Americans age 45-63 are single and positioned to become what is being coined "The Elder Orphans". The U.S. Census (2010) reports that 11 million people over the age of 65 live alone and that number will increase. The rising cost of medical care at the end of life, limitations with health insurance, including the high cost of long term insurance further complicate our current failing system of support.
There is an overwhelming need for additional quality end of life preparation and support. The doula model of care represents sanity and respect for this most tender of times. It applies needed grounding in the wisdom of compassion, companioning and proven non-medical comfort measures. Doulas encourage planning and preparation. There is a focus on the very practical aspects at the end of life such as making sure that advanced directives are in place and that the conversation about end of life wishes has happened in the family ensuring that everyone is on the same page concerning care and treatment options. The doula model encourages delving into the meaning of ones life and the importance of leaving a meaningful legacy behind for loved ones. A doula will also help in creating an end of life plan based on the wishes of the dying person that can include things like who should be there at the end, if there are favorite spiritual passages they would like read, or rituals to be followed. Caregiver and family support is another point of focus in doula care.
End of life doula support is a perfect adjunct to hospice care but it should be kept in mind that preparing for life's final transition does not mean waiting until a person receives a terminal diagnosis. Planning should happen well before that. To be kept in mind is that we never know when the end of our life will be. It is quite evident that people die at all ages. Being awake to this fact will help us move towards honesty and opportunity. We can be open to living fully and authentically no matter what stage of life we are in.
Inspired Endings provides the necessary training, tools and support for those who want to be there for others at this sacred transition in our human lives.
Become an end of life doula today and be a part of the emerging death positive movement.