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Frequently Asked Questions

Most people are not familiar with the term "End-of-Life Doula"

Here are some common questions we hear:

What do End-of-Life Doulas do?

This is a very broad and vague question, but the real simple answer is that we do a little bit of everything. We often work in collaboration with other resources and services, such as palliative or hospice. We fill in the gaps that specific services may not have the time or resources to cover. We offer emotional support and guidance, lend a listening ear, hold space for those hard conversations, advocate for you when you need or want us to, and assist in directing you to helpful resources if there is a need beyond our scope of practice. Doulas are the glue that can bind all of the components of end-of-life care to reduce stress and allow patients and loved ones to enjoy their time together.


Does insurance cover doula services?

Unfortunately, no. At this time, insurance does not cover doula services and is typically only available on a private pay basis. Some individual doulas or doula agencies may offer pro bono services, or fees on a sliding scale to accommodate those that would otherwise be unable to afford it. 

Image by Ryan Hutton

Is a doula substitute for a physician or other licensed healthcare provider?

No. A doula works in collaboration with licensed healthcare providers to provide support and guidance, but is not a replacement for seeing a doctor, nurse practitioner, or being on service with a hospice care provider. We can communicate with them with a patient's permission, and be an added layer of support to the care they provide. 

What is 11th Hour Vigil?  

When a person has advanced to the end stages of life, there is often (but not always) a period of time known as the "actively dying phase", sometimes also referred to as the 11th-hour stage, being "imminent", or other various descriptive phrases. This phase can last for hours or days. The person is often unresponsive, and, in many cases, appears to be sleeping, which is ideal because it indicates they are comfortable. This period can be distressing for families and loved ones to watch, as they often feel 'helpless'. The dying person is likely in a place consciously between this world and whatever comes after. There are many signs that doulas (as well as experienced hospice nurses and caregivers) may identify to indicate that a person is actively dying.  We are never able to give a definitive prediction of when a person will die, but we can often give a fairly accurate time frame or range for expected departure. An EOL Doula is often present for the vigil, which may require longer visits for several days until the person dies, if the individual has previously expressed consent and/or the family desires doula support.  

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