LEXINGTON, Ky. — End-of-life doulas, also known as death doulas provide, “holistic support for the dying and their loved ones before, during, and after death,” according to the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA).

What You Need To Know

  • End-of-life doulas, or death doulas, educate and support clients and their loved ones through the process of death

  • Lauren Hunter-Smith is a death doula in Lexington who goes over advance care directives with her clients

  • When completing an advance care directive, people put their end-of-life wishes in writing

  • This type of planning makes it easier on loved ones when dealing with grief

Lauren Hunter-Smith began her business, Bluegrass Death Doula, in 2022. She meets with clients to go over an advance care directive, which includes assigning a person to make decisions when the client can no longer do so, what kind of care the client wishes to have and funeral preparations.

“When I finish client meetings, there is this palpable sense of relief in people because it’s been talked about, and we’ve made a plan, and we know what we’re going to do,” said Hunter-Smith.

To make it legally binding in Kentucky, people can either get two impartial witness signatures or get it notarized.

Lauren Hunter-Smith, an end-of-life doula, explains what the "Five Wishes" booklet is and discusses funeral preparation. (Spectrum News 1/Geraldine Torrellas)

Hunter-Smith recommends that people then upload it to a medical record app and give it to a doctor to put on one’s medical record.

“The more prepared you are, the easier it’s going to be on your family and your loved ones,” said Joan Bretthauer with NEDA, who also goes over advance care directives with her clients. “It will be so much easier and that’s what research shows with advanced directives, especially how much easier it’ll be on your family and stuff, when they know what you want and what you don’t want.”

Hunter-Smith recommends everyone should complete an advance care directive, even people who are young and healthy.

Through Bluegrass Death Doula, she also does legacy projects with her clients, facilitates natural burials, and teaches people how to do home burials.