Monday, April 16, 2012

Finding Peace in the Final Hours

Volunteer End-of-Life Doulas Offer Support to Hospice Patients and Their Loved Ones

For Sissy Vaughn and her family, having an end-of-life doula at their father’s side helped ease their minds. “I had lost my mother only six weeks before,” explains Ms. Vaughn. “We have a large family, and my mother was always the one to keep us relaxed during difficult times.” To serve as a calming presence for the family and Ms. Vaughn’s father, end-of-life doula Elaine Gardner traveled to their home to be with them during their time of need. “Having her there helped us to cope with everything,” says Ms. Vaughn. “She was someone to talk to, laugh with and cry with. She sat with my father and held his hand through his final hours.”

Ms. Gardner is one of 90 specially trained doulas who volunteer with Gilchrist Hospice Care’s End-of-Life Doula program. Since the program was developed in December 2009, doulas have served as a guiding presence for nearly 1,000 patients and their families through the final hours of life. Doulas stay by the bedsides of hospice patients in a range of settings from private homes and long-term care facilities to the Gilchrist centers located in Baltimore and Howard Counties.

Many reasons prompt families to utilize Gilchrist’s end-of-life doula services. In some cases, family members are unable to be at their loved one’s side or simply need additional support. Doulas are often called to be with a patient when loved ones face travel constraints. Or, if patients request that their family members not be present in the room when they die, having a doula present can be a compromise, offering family members peace of mind when they can’t be there themselves.

“The program has had an extremely positive response so far, both from our doula volunteers and the families of those who have died,” says Deborah Geffen-Jones, Volunteer Services Manager at Gilchrist. “We are thankful to all of our doulas who are strongly dedicated to offering comfort to our clients during such critical and emotional times.”

Learn More

For additional information about the services provided by Gilchrist Hospice Care, visit

To view all of our stories from April's Living Healthy, Living Well please click here.

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