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SW: HealthNews Channel
Reported September 3, 2014

Doula for Dying

DALLAS (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The term “doula” has been around for centuries. In ancient Greece, it described a household servant. In modern times, it’s a person who comforts women during childbirth.

Now, there are doulas for the dying. They aren’t nurses or doctors, but these women spend much of their days at patients’ bed sides.

Vicky DeBusk and Lou Anne Curry are doulas for the dying. They volunteer their time to comfort terminally ill patients at Baylor University Medical Center.

“The nurses are wonderful, but they don’t have time to sit with a patient for two to three hours at a time,” Reverend Dr. Marci Pounders, Board Certified Chaplain, Baylor Health Care System, told Ivanhoe.

 Rev. Dr. Pounders said the doula program ensures that no patient will die alone.

“They can experience what we call touch hunger, that is, nobody touches them except to stick a needle in them,” Rev. Dr. Pounders explained.

The doulas at Baylor have made about 3,000 patient visits and provided more than 900 volunteer hours of service.

“It brings the full spectrum of whole person care to our patients,” Mark Casanova, MD, Supportive and Palliative Medicine Physician, Baylor Health Care System, told Ivanhoe.

This risk of dying alone is higher than ever. In 1950, 4 million Americans lived alone. Today, it’s eight-times that. Back then, 22 percent of Americans were single. Today, that figure is over 50 percent. A study published in Geriatric Times found as many as 60 percent or nursing home residents have no regular visitors.

Curry still remembers the first time she comforted a patient who was alone.

“When I walked in that room, it was the greatest shock because there was not a chair in that room because no one visited,” Curry told Ivanhoe. “There was no one.”

“It’s very humanizing to have someone who is compassionate, who is caring, who wants to listen to you, and wants to be your advocate,” Rev. Dr. Pounders said.

DeBusk empathizes with her patients. She lost her mother, father, and brother. She’s also a cancer survivor.

“For me, I walk in those patients’ shoes,” DeBusk told Ivanhoe.

It’s help for people when they need it most. The doula program at Baylor is a free service to patients. Right now, they have seven active volunteers and two in training.  MORE.

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