By Leader Contributor Emma Horton

With millennials becoming more involved in funeral planning and shaping the current trends for end-of-life care, there has been an influx of new services, along with a different approach to the idea of death. One of the newest trends is for a family to seek a death doula.

We are used to the idea of a doula being there for the beginning of a life, but now, they are taking a role in coaching people through the end of life as well. Many people are turning away from the concept of only having medical care for the end of their lives and trying to focus on finding peace of mind and deeper meaning as death draws near. This is what death doulas specialize in.

The International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) describes doulas like this: “Doulas provide emotional, spiritual, and physical support at an intensely personal and crucial time. They assist people in finding meaning, creating a legacy project, and planning for how the last days will unfold. Doulas also guide and support loved ones through the last days of life and ease the suffering of grief in its early stages.”

This service takes an interesting stance on the idea of end-of-life care and provides a more holistic approach to the death and dying process that so many people have a difficult time coming to terms with. The idea of a legacy project is also becoming more common in today’s world, with many people asking for donations to a specific organization in lieu of flowers. One of the organizations making this possible is Make My Donation, which connects donors to over 1.5 million charities worldwide.

Death doulas don’t necessarily have to operate outside of medical care. Oftentimes, doulas work alongside hospice care. While the idea of a doula might seem as if it is outside the realm of traditional medical care, the two can actually be complementary and benefit the individual both physically and emotionally.

One potential issue with death doulas is the current lack of nationally mandated requirements. Multiple 501(c)(3) organizations – such as INELDA and The Conscious Dying Institute – provide certifications, but there is no national standard for care in the industry. In every part of the country, death doulas may present their services in a different manner, but the same basic principles of care exist throughout.

While death doulas may not be able to provide the same set of services or the same standard of care as a hospice worker, they do focus on the emotional wellbeing of individuals who are terminally ill or facing death.

Depending on your community, a death doula could be helpful to individuals suffering from a terminal illness or a life-threatening condition.

If families ask you about this concept, or if you know someone who would benefit from a death doula’s services, direct them to these resources:

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