The UK Approach
We recently came across an article in The Guardian, a United Kingdom newspaper about England’s death doulas. Written by Karen McVeigh, it explores hospice care with a very personal touch.
According to the story, Caroline Dent and her colleague, Liz Wong, are among a growing number of people in Britain trained as end-of-life or death doulas. The concept is akin to traditional childbirth doulas who aide mothers during delivery. It is different, however, because it comes at a very different time of life. There are at least 100 end-of-life doulas in Britain, according to Living Well Dying Well (LWDW), an East Sussex-based organization that trains doulas.
They are not medical experts, but often work alongside the National Health Service professionals in hospices or in the community to help the dying and their families live their last days as meaningfully and with as much control as possible. Most commonly, death doulas come from nursing, palliative care or social work backgrounds. All but a handful are women.
For Wong, 37, a personal trainer from north London, the decision to become a doula began with the death of her best friend four years ago. The unexpected loss shook her world and she found herself becoming fearful of death. Research led her to Dent who told her about the doula course. Part of her motivation was to support her elderly parents and help them plan for death. After gaining valuable experience in the field, she now gives talks on advanced care planning in London’s Chinese community, where discussing death is taboo.
McVeigh’s article points out that the United Kingdom ranks as the best place in the world to die. Surveys suggest that is because of the integration of palliative care into the health care system and a strong hospice movement, mainly funded by charities.
All agree that death doulas can help with the loneliness that can accompany those who are dying. These trained individuals may also be able to help patients and their families to grant last wishes. Sometimes it also involved being a good listener who can let the person – young or old – talk about what worries them so that they can then more fully live the life they have.
To read the complete article, click here.