Meet a Death Doula

What is a Death Doula?

© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions

 

Last week, for the first time, I met a Death Doula.

 

The meeting coincided with the week of Australia's 'Dying to Know Day' and its theme of preparing for death, covered in last week's blog.

 

Erase thoughts of witchcraft and tribal death masks, Death Doulas are very much a modern day support on approaching death. As today's Baby-Boomers enter their 70s, Death Doula services are increasingly in demand.

 

 

Doula - the origins the word

 

Before we enter the world of the modern day Death Doula, let's explore the etymology of that intriguing word, 'doula'. Doula comes from the ancient Greek word, doulé, meaning female slave. In Modern Greek, it means female servant.  

 

The term was revived in the 1960s through the work of American anthropologist, Dana Raphael. Dr Raphael suggested that the presence of a non-medical caregiver or 'doula' at a baby's birth contributed to long-term successful breastfeeding.

 

By the 1990s, the term 'doula' extended to the full spectrum of the possible 'circle of life' supports given by non-medical caregivers, including death.

 

It's a case of the old becoming new again, as the practice of having the wise woman of the village - the doula - present at birth and death dates back to ancient times.

 

 

Meeting a doula

 

Back to my meeting with Nycole Lloyd, Living Loving Dying, a Death Doula with 4 years' experience in the field, practising out of Brisbane, Australia. I asked Nycole about her role.

 

"Essentially, as End of Life Doula, I am a compassionate presence to assist a person and their family in feeling safe and supported through the transition to death," says Nycole.

"I educate and empower people to increase their death literacy and understand their options and choices on the full range of non-medical end of life matters. We plan for their final days, burial, legacy, and care of their surviving loved ones.

"The role involves doing my best to meet people where they are at, both emotionally and physically, on their journey and to accompany the individual and their loved ones through the final months, weeks and days of life – right up until the time death occurs. Following death, I provide after death care into the deep mourning process.

"I provide support in the person's home, and also in facilities and hospitals if that is appropriate also."

 

Nycole makes it clear that the role of a Death Doula is no substitute for palliative care. A doula cannot administer medication or other medical treatment or give medical advice. Invariably, they work very closely with palliative care professionals and provide the back up of companionship and a range of practical non-medical supports to the terminally ill.

It is all summed up by one of Nycole’s favourite quotes, that of the American surgeon and end-of-life writer, Dr Atul Gawande:

"Our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death but a good life to the very end."

On a final note, there is such a thing as a certified doula, with training provided by DONA International and The Australia Doula College


When to comes to finding care solutions and support during the final stages of life, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.

- Contact Danielle - For An Impartial & Confidential Conversation

 

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