The idea is new enough that there are no statistics as to how many there are. Their duties also vary, anything from arranging all sorts of details such as power of attorneys and funeral arrangements to counseling. Mostly there is a lot of hand holding. Increasingly people find that handling death is too much not only emotionally but also in practical terms given that the end of life comes with many details needing attention, so they turn to what is being called death doulas. Doulas, from a Greek word meaning woman who serves, are established in helping with births, so it seems natural that some would also chose to work with the other end of the life spectrum. There are now private courses to certify one to be a death doula. Some doulas or the organizations they are affiliated with use volunteers, and most charge fees, depending on what is required of them. Some were hospice nurses or volunteers for whom being a doula is a logical transition .When the nearness of death comes to a family, family members suffer in one way, while the dying member usually requires something different. For many the idea of someone who will be there to guide them through this emotional journey is a great help and, as is the case with hospice, for the dying person that kind of comfort to them and their family can be welcomed.
Death is such a traumatic subject for so many, or at least one laden and fraught with fears that death doulas can, and sooner than we think will, end up filling a niche in our service oriented society. Hospice care, since it is covered by Medicare, at least for those over 65, is not class conscious. It helps the poor like the rich. With death doulas, since it is a service provided for a fee, it does make one wonder if it will turn out to be something that benefits the affluent more than others?