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End of Life Doula

Doulagivers/End of Life Doulas are a new and exciting area of health care. Time magazine recently named End of Life Doulas 1 out of 7 top new professions. They are specially trained in all three phases of end of life and are supportive companions to the dying and their loved ones.

The End of Life Doula Training program was created out of pure need and necessity. 9/10 people want to be kept at home if terminally ill, yet half are dying in the hospital. Source: Gallup poll 1996 National Hospice Organization.

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Hospice Nurse Suzanne B. O’Brien RN created her End of Life Doula program “because families were so overwhelmed and frightened to care for their dying loved one at home. In our society today, we don’t even talk about death let alone plan for it”. Said O’Brien RN.

The other very important fact O’Brien says is “Most people do not understand what hospice really does. Hospice teaches the family to be the caregiver”. Said O’Brien.” Under such stressful conditions (death is the 2nd leading fear in this country) very little teaching can actually be accomplished. I have seen end of life be 100x harder for both patient and their loved ones due to the lack of preparation for this natural part of life’s journey”.

“As long as they go through a training process, I think they (end of life doulas) can complement the work of the hospice team really well. The more people there to help a patient and family the better.” – John Mastrojohn III executive vice president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

There are 3 levels to the Doulagivers training program. Level 1 is for caregivers of all kinds. “Everyone should be taught the basic skills to care for their dying before anyone actually becomes ill” Said O’Brien. Level 1 is offered for a free/donation basis and is now part of the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Cares’ Global education directory. Level 2 is the Intensive Caregiver training for those who want a more in-depth understanding. Level 2 includes the top 10 End of life disease processes and common EOL medications. The Level 3 is for Certificate End of Life Doulas.

One of the main questions O’Brien is asked is what are the differences between a hospice volunteer and a Level 3 End of Life Doula?  “Hospice volunteers are wonderful, but due to the reimbursement guidelines there are many regulations of what they can and cannot do.” The 2 main differences are that most hospice volunteers usually have a time limit that they can be at the bedside of the dying patient and they usually are not allowed to help a patient to the bathroom. These are two of the main components that help to give caregivers the much needed respite and physical support they need.

I see End of Life Doulas working along side Hospice to make the best possible experience for patients and loved ones. It takes each and every one of us to make this much needed positive change in end of life care.

An End-of-Life (EOL) Doula is a non-medical professional that provides physical, emotional, and spiritual support to the patient, family, loved ones, friends, and their support networks. An EOL Doula will assist the family with understanding the natural process while providing suggestions for comfort and support. This holistic support for the dying and their loved ones will occur before, during, and after death. Every patient and family served is unique and services will be tailored to their individual needs. The goal of an EOL Doula is to collaborate with hospice, palliative team, and other healthcare professionals to create a dynamic support system ensuring the highest quality of life for a patients end-of-life care. Referrals to appropriate professional and community resources will be made as needed for services that are outside of the EOL Doula scope of practice. An EOL Doula will provide education regarding the end-of-life processes and options available so that patients and families can make informed decisions about their care. An EOL doula is not a medical provider and as such any information or advice given should be viewed in that light.

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