Death doulas an option for some after spiritual care programs cut at Sask. hospitals

Hospitals across the province are losing their spiritual care programs at the end of September. Paid death doulas are one option people are exploring to fill that void.

Businesses offer support for people and families facing end-of-life decisions

Jordana Buchan, left, meets with death doula Denise Seguin Horth. Buchan has been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. (Nichole Huck/CBC )

When cuts to spiritual care programs at Saskatchewan hospitals take effect Friday, patients will be responsible for finding their own spiritual care provider. 

One of the options some people are exploring is death doulas.

Jordana Buchan from Regina has stage four metastatic breast cancer and has started planning for her death. 
The young mother wants to find someone who can help her and her family navigate the complicated emotions and logistics that come with the end of life. 

For the sake of my family, I need to be ready and I also want them to have supports.- Jordana Buchan 

"I'm approaching death," she said.

"I can see it coming, but I'm not ready for it; and if there's a possibility that anybody could help me step through it, it's just an amazing gift that someone is willing to do that for other people."

Jordana Buchan wants her family to be supported before and after her death. (Nichole Huck/CBC)

Buchan said she feels healthy now but she knows that can change.

"For the sake of my family, I need to be ready and I also want them to have some supports."

Buchan has two children ages 10 and eight. She said she struggles with decisions that will affect them.

"Is it going to be better for my kids for me to die at home or in the hospital? I don't want my kids to feel like their home is a scary place or they can't feel comfortable in their home because I died there."

And it's these big questions that have her turning to a local death doula for help. 

Support before and after death 

Denise Seguin Horth runs Love's Last Breath and as a death doula offers support to families in times of transition, including before and after death. 

The two women met in Seguin Horth's living room, cups of tea in hand, to talk about what a death doula does and how she could help Buchan with her journey.

Regina and surrounding area has about 10 death doulas. Some specialize in home funerals, some focus on the legalities of advanced planning and wills, and others such as Seguin Horth focus on providing emotional support to clients and their families. 

Denise Seguin Horth has worked as a chaplain intern in Regina. She is now working as a death doula with Love's Last Breath. (Nichole Huck/CBC)

"Sometimes people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness cannot be fully honest with the people around them because they are also protecting them," said Seguin Horth.

"We can show up for that safe, uncensored place where people can share the emotions."

Seguin Horth said death doulas fill a gap.

"Where medical is there to save lives and support you, funeral directors are there to help afterwards, death doulas are here to help that transition of all the rest in-between."

Many death doulas charge for their services but fees vary.