Innovative End-of-Life Doula Program Supports Comfort, Dignity and Personal Choice

Hospice of the Western Reserve has implemented an end-of-life doula program to provide enhanced support to patients and their families in the final phase of life. The innovative program - provided exclusively by specially trained volunteers - complements the care provided by the transdisciplinary hospice clinical care team.
“The concept behind the end-of-life doula program is to normalize the experience of death for all parties involved — the patient, family members and friends,” said Lisa Gallagher, Director of Staff Experience. Death, just like birth, is a natural  - and unavoidable - part of life. We believe the final phase of a person’s life merits the same care, planning and reverence as the day they were born. The support of the doula through this final life transition helps ensure the patient’s final days unfold according to their personal wishes.”  
Q: How do end-of-life doulas interface with the clinical team?
A: Volunteer end-of-life doulas are an integral member of the hospice clinical care team. All volunteers receive and share information on a regular basis.
Q: How do they help to ensure the patient’s wishes are communicated to all caregivers?
A: Volunteer end-of-life doulas accompany patients throughout their journey. They promote consistent communication and planning for each patient’s unique path.  
Q: What are some of the specific services end-of-life doulas provide?
A:  Our program includes four key elements:
  • Life Review: By facilitating conversations about the patient’s life and providing support, end-of-life doulas help individuals move from despair to meaning through exploration.
  • Legacy Work: Finding meaningful ways for patients to share their stories ensures their thoughts, hopes and experiences are memorialized.
  • Vigil Planning: By documenting patients’ wishes for their final days, the plan helps ensure the patients are provided with the setting and environment they desire.
  • Vigil Presence: The volunteer end-of-life doula may be present during the final hours to provide support to patients and their loved ones.
Q: How can families enlist the support of a volunteer end-of-life doula?
A:  Families may speak with any member of their HWR care team to request end-of-life doula support for a loved one. For questions about the volunteer end-of-life doula program, contact Lori Scotese, Volunteer Service Manager, at 216.287.8193 or

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Northern Ohio's Hospice of Choice

More than 1,000 Hospice of the Western Reserve employees and 3,000 volunteers live and work side-by-side in the same neighborhoods with our patients and families. We are privileged to have cared for more than 100,000 Northern Ohioans since our inception.