There is a growing movement of volunteers and professionals who are pushing for greater compassion and companionship for people who are dying. Borrowing language from the birthing world, they’re called death doulas, end-of-life doulas, death midwives and palliative care doulas. These are trained individuals of all genders who offer support and comfort to people to those who are dying, as well as the soon-to-be-bereaved.
An End-of-Life Doula is a non-medical caregiver who is trained to care for those facing a life altering diagnosis, or terminal illness. They also offer support, advocacy and education. They know what conditions may arise as someone’s body begins to decline and what interventions to suggest to optimize comfort while working with palliative care and hospice support teams.
“There are so many people who are facing the end stage of life alone,” one doula said. “In my experience working with people at that stage, the real stress is often that no one wants to talk to them about it. That’s very isolating.” And other said, “Our role is to walk alongside [the dying] in their journey.”
Many EOL (End of Life) Doulas work in a non-medical capacity, often providing the service of being a liaison between either hospital or hospice organizations and the person who is dying and their family. Doulas can be volunteers or paid, depending on the services requested. Such services might include sitting vigil, being a one-on-one companion, hold family meetings on a regular basis, discuss safety concerns, hire staff, and decode much of the jargon that accompanies end-of-life decisions and medical directives or suggestions.
Cleveland Heights resident Adaire Petrichor is an expert in this field. She is a certified death doula who trains others to be doulas. She is involved in creative and positive activities relating to end of life issues, including creating beautiful shrouds, painting coffins with others, and putting together meaningful quilts. Adaire holds s discussion group called “Courageous Conversations” on the 2nd Tuesday of every month (7 – 9 p.m. at the Coventry Library), similar to the Death Cafe CMS held.
Adaire Petrichor’s contact information is as follows: