When you hear the word doula you are apt to think of someone helping with childbirth. Now doulas are being trained to help with
the dying. Doula, a Greek word meaning “a woman who serves”, was first used in writing in 1969.
Childbirth doulas have been employed since the 1980’s. They help women and their partners have a satisfying childbirth and postpartum experience by offering emotional support, and by assisting them in feeling comfortable and nurtured. The formal organization for childbirth doulas, DONA International, was formed in 1992.
The philosophy of the childbirth doula has been adapted to create a new kind of doula, the end-of-life doula. The end-of-life doula can offer support and guide people through the dying process bringing greater comfort and deeper meaning to those involved. The International End-of-Life Doula Association (INELDA) was formed in 2003.
It is possible, considering Medicare’s recent decision to reimburse physicians for end-of-life discussions, the increased awareness of hospice, and an aging population, we may hear more about doulas caring for persons dying as well as doulas caring for women giving birth.
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