MY FATHER DIED in 1994 after a six month battle with cancer.  It wasn’t an easy time, but the help given us by Hospice was a godsend.  It made all the difference in the world, and saved our relationships.

Deanna CochranI had the opportunity this week to speak with Deanna Cochran, founder of Quality of Life Care in Austin, Texas.  Her specialty is as an End of Life Doula, a field I’d never heard of before.

She helps people navigate their palliative care from diagnosis onward and helps families to traverse the amazing emotional journey at the end of a loved one’s life.

“I want to live in a world where we honor our elders, care for our dying with reverence and grace, accept the wrinkles on our faces, eat wholesome foods without dangerous chemicals, accept each other’s grief and not try to ‘get through it’ all the time, talk about our dying as openly as we do everything else. I want everyone as comfortable holding the hand of their dying loved one as they are holding the new baby in the family. Those are just some of the things I long for.”
Deanna Cochran

I can clearly see how this has incredible value for her clients – not only the dying, but for their families.  And in a country where only 44% of the dying are helped by Hospice, there’s plenty of opportunity.

As a business owner, Deanna is navigating new territory herself.  The biggest problem?  People have no idea that the field even exists.  I confess that I’ve been a bit fuzzy on the notion of a Doula, thinking that it is similar to a midwife. In the end of life field a doula may support a family in a variety of ways, all depending on that doula’s particular skillset and area of focus. Most end of life doulas provide emotional and spiritual support. Deanna provides full spectrum support as she is a certified hospice and palliative RN as well. She’ll even cook breakfast!

Deanna responded to demand over the years of others wanting training. This demand is in perfect alignment with her passion to serve and so she created a certificate program in 2010. She’s spreading her caring approach and loving support to people all over the world with a growing number of End of Life Doulas.

There’s no question that this kind of support is needed, and increasing with our ever-aging population who want to deny their mortality.  Our family’s experience shows me that the value is, quite literally, priceless.

One of her greatest challenges has been charging for her services as Medicare nor insurance cover this type of intensive support. As you’d expect, her generous heart can make it difficult to ask for payment from those who are grieving. Yet bills must be paid, children provided for and a future planned. She does as much sliding scale and pro bono work as she can as she does not want ability to pay to prevent someone from receiving support.

To this end, she’s creating a 501(c)3 non-profit, Companions for Quality Care (CQC), which focuses on providing companionship through serious illness, the dying of a loved one and bereavement. The structure is now taking shape. CQC will focus on providing expert training to paid workers and volunteers for these specific time periods.

I love the fact that Deanna is so passionate about this service that she’s essentially dedicated her life to it.  In her words, “It’s my life, I think about it every minute of the day.”

It’s amazing to me to see the emergence of a new industry, and we may be seeing one here.  It’s an immensely valuable service provided for people who are in great need.  But is it monetarily self-sustaining?  We don’t know yet.

Deanna’s vision and intense focus are what support her through this uncertainty, and have for a decade.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my father, James Dierschow.
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