Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation has launched a volunteer hospice doula program that provides emotional support and comfort to people who are approaching the end of their lives. The program is supported by a two-year grant from The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation.
Now, the Comprehensive Community Hospice Program at Parker Jewish is seeking volunteers to work as a doula, which would include visiting patients’ homes and helping them cope with the process of dying.
In Greek, “doula” means a “woman servant” or “caregiver.” Today, it is associated with individuals who provide physical assistance and emotional support during or after childbirth. Parker Jewish’s program aims to mirror the concept by providing the same type of support during the final phases of terminal illness. The program is especially aimed to help elderly patients who lack family or adequate caregivers, so that they do not die alone.
Volunteer doulas would be asked to communicate with, listen to and be present for the patient whom they are serving. Doulas can come from any background— but often work in a team, so that someone can always be with the person who is dying. Duties would include providing support, comfort and companionship.
Those interested in participating would receive training that includes techniques for the best ways to support a dying person, strategies to relieve overburdened family members and assistance at the moment of death, such as helping loved ones process their grief.
Once the doulas receive support and supervision, they would meet monthly to process experiences, discuss what they learned and exchange ideas. A doula blog and quarterly newsletter would keep them up to date on the program.
To get involved in the program, contact Hospice Program’s volunteer doula coordinator at (718) 289-2134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested in volunteering would be able to attend a seminar to learn more and receive free two-day training from instructor Henry Fersko-Weiss, who created the first EOL doula program in 2003 and has been training people for the work ever since.