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Terminally Ill Offered Companionship and Emotional Support through 'Doula' Program

October 30, 2007: Terminally Ill Offered Companionship and Emotional Support through 'Doula' Program

New York City, NY (October 30, 2007) - At the end of life, simple things like the soothing presence of a loved one or a hand to hold can bring great comfort. But for the terminally ill who have limited support from family or friends, these small acts of kindness are hard to come by.

The Palliative Care Service at Montefiore Medical Center is recruiting adult volunteers for a new program created to provide support for terminally ill patients who are facing the end of life alone. 

Patterned after the traditionally defined doula who provides emotional support to a woman giving birth, "end-of-life doulas" are people who form one-on-one relationships with patients whose life expectancy is 18 months or less. Volunteers are assigned to visit one terminally ill patient at a time, visiting in the hospital or in the patient's home at least once a week, and providing companionship and emotional support to lessen feelings of isolation patients may experience. 

"This is a unique and meaningful opportunity for people who would like to make a real difference in a person's life at an important time of transition," said Sean O'Mahony, MD, BCh, BAO, Medical Director, Palliative Care Service, Montefiore Medical Center.  

The Montefiore program is a partnership with the Shira Ruskay Center's Doula to Accompany and Comfort Program, part of the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services.  English and Spanish-speaking volunteers now being recruited by Montefiore will receive an 8-week training as well as ongoing support. Training includes instruction about the need for self-awareness when working with individuals and families, the impact of cultural factors, individual needs as death approaches, spiritual issues, and advanced directives. Once training is completed, a minimum commitment of 18 months of volunteering is required.

"Many of our patients are disadvantaged and socially isolated, and they are in great need of the support an end-of-life doula can bring," said Ronit Fallek, Manager, Supportive and Complementary Care Programs, Montefiore Medical Center.  "Our program will address a need that exists in this community for affordable supportive and comfort care that should be available regardless of socioeconomic status."

For more information about becoming an end-of-life doula, please call Ms. Fallek at (718) 920-6576 or email her at rfallek@montefiore.org

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