When we hear the term “doula,” we probably most often think of a birth doula – someone who helps bring new life into the world. However, increasingly, doulas are also helping people through their final days.
Today there are approximately 400 certified end-of-life ("death") doulas in the United States, providing families with in-home end-of-life support prior to and throughout the dying experience.
- Invite open and honest discussion about dying among the dying person and people close to them
- Encourage the dying individual to explore their life and the impact they’ve had on the lives of people closest to them
- Help the dying person and loved ones create a dying space based on personal wishes (music, sounds, rituals, etc.)
- Guide the dying individual and the family through the dying process (symptoms, specific signs)
- Supporting family and friends after the death as they begin to process their emotions and reflect on the dying experience
There are a variety of directories online that will help you find end-of-life doulas in your area. Whether there is only one doula in your area, or you have several from which to choose, a formal or informal interview will help you select the one that is right for you and your family.
Questions to Ask a Prospective Doula
Selecting an end-of-life doula is likely one of the most personal decisions you’ll ever make. Therefore, asking the right questions plays an important role in ensuring a doula is a good fit for you, your family and other loved ones. The following questions can help guide your discussion when you meet with a prospective doula.
- Are you a certified end-of-life doula? From where did you receive your certification?
- How many families have you served?
- How much time can I expect you’ll spend with me? Are we on an established schedule or am I able to call on you as needed?
- How will we meet? In-person? By phone? Zoom?
- How much conversation can I expect? If I prefer quiet sometimes, is that okay?
- Are you willing to have a conversation with me about my religious or spiritual beliefs without imposing your own? Or…
- I don’t have any specific religious or spiritual beliefs or beliefs about an afterlife. Can we stay away from discussions about that?
- How might family/friends be involved in your visits?
- How do you work with hospice or other medical professionals?
- What if I discover, a few days or more into our relationship, that this is not a good fit for me?
- How are your fees structured and how are payments handled?
Remembering A Life Podcast
Learn more on the Remembering A Life Podcast where we interviewed life doula Marggie Hatala. It's a great conversation about what end-of-life doulas do and how families can best work with one during a loved one's final days.