First and foremost, clarify with any potential end-of-life doula when they are available to be with you. Are they willing to be on-call? Do they work at night? Are there any times that they are not available, such as weekends, holidays or vacations? It’s also a good idea to find out the best way to reach them and note how long it takes them to respond if you have to leave a message. It is unrealistic for anyone to be 100 percent available at all times. Do they have a plan for when they might be busy, such as a back-up or a partner?
Training and Background
Don’t be afraid to ask what type of end-of-life doula training the doula has had, and if they have been certified by anyone. Also ask how much experience they have had working with individuals and families who are facing end of life, and in what capacity. Recognize that some people may have extensive training in a particular field, such as nursing or spiritual care, but that doesn’t mean that they are a good fit for the type of care and guidance that you may be seeking. On the other hand, the doula may not have been practicing very long, but life experiences add greatly to one’s ability to serve others and accompany them on the journey. Do they have what you are looking for in other ways?
Can the doula explain what an end-of-life doula is and does in a way that you understand? Is the doula a take-charge person or a gentle, quiet person? Do they appear organized? Are you comfortable talking with them? What is your intuition telling you about the chemistry of your interactions? Will they mesh with others in your family or circle of support? Do you feel that you understand each other?
Some doulas volunteer their services for their circle of friends, co-workers, family or members of their faith group. Others charge an hourly or package fee. Whatever they charge will likely be commensurate with their experience, training, services offered and availability. If someone is volunteering their services, do they consider themselves any less available to you? It is wise to be as clear as possible at the beginning of your relationship and not make assumptions, even though you don’t know exactly what is to come or how long you will be working together.
What are the unmet needs in your current situation? Are you just wanting to explore a variety of options and seeking information and guidance to sort out next steps? Or are you in crisis right now and seeking respite overnight care? The clearer you can be about your needs, fears and expectations, the more likely you will be to find the right doula match.
Lifespan Doula Association can help you find a doula. Check out our Doula Caregiver Directory. Since the Directory is lightly populated at this point in our new organization, feel free to contact us if you would like our help, at support@LifespanDoulas.com.