End-of-life care is vital for providing comfort to clients and their families during what is often perceived as a time filled with various emotions. When someone is navigating an end-of-life experience, they can sometimes face overwhelming decisions and challenges before them. In turn, death doulas can help navigate them through their spiritual and emotional needs. However, with a pandemic now in the picture, how do they adapt and continue providing much-needed care?
Below, we will learn a little more about death doulas and their role in hospice care, as well as how they continue to best access the needs of their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is a Death Doula?
According to Healthline.com, a death doula is a non-medical professional who is trained to help those nearing the end of their lives with their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.1 Death doulas work with the dying and their families to ensure comfort and ease during what can be a difficult process. Often, death doulas may have experienced grief themselves, and therefore, they may have a greater understanding of what the client and their family may be going through. Additionally, these professionals know what to pay attention to as they work with a dying person, whether they are looking at signs of physical discomfort or emotional turmoil.
How Does a Death Doula Differ From a Hospice Nurse?
While a death doula can be of service to a client in hospice care, they are not medical professionals. A doula usually provides short-term intensive support and counseling to individuals and families, who may be facing an end-of-life situation. The AARP notes that some doulas have private practices or work with community organizations, while others do work in connection with hospices, so it varies.2
There are currently no credentialing parties for death doulas. However, proper death doula training can be completed through accredited organizations, such as the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) and the Lifespan Doula Association.3
How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Death Doulas?
The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many professional areas of care, and death doulas are no exception. In the past year or so, many doulas have seen an increase in requests to assist individuals and their loved ones who may have been affected by COVID-19. The AARP points out how death doulas have had to adjust to ongoing changes and new safety protocols. As such, virtual visits with clients have become a common theme and a convenient manner whereby death doulas can continue to provide care. 4 Still, being easily accessible to clients has been paramount to ease feelings of isolation and loneliness that may be even more evident during the pandemic.
Whether it’s to guide a client through advanced care planning or to help them meet and fulfill their final wishes, death doulas can be the comfort and light for those who may be preparing for their end-of-life transition.
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1 Healthline.com, “How ‘Death Doulas’ Can Help People at the End of Their Life,” 2021.
2 AARP, “Learning to Serve the Dying,” October 8, 2019.
3 Home Care Mag, “Embracing the Role of the Death Doula for Your Hospice Patients,” March 11, 2021.
4 AARP, “Death Doulas Adapt to Pandemic to Provide End-of-Life Support,” July 9, 2021.