We all know about hospice care for humans, but what about hospice care for animals? This seems to be more widely recognized now in veterinary medicine. When you think of hospice for humans, you think of terminal patients that have 24 hour nursing care for palliation until death. For animals, it is more of a recognition that an animal does have a terminal disease, and helps to open up a dialogue with owners about what to expect for their pet so they are prepared and have a plan in place to keep them comfortable as long as possible.
Hospice care is based on accepting death as a part of life; helping an owner to make a plan they are comfortable with that encompasses their own beliefs, whether or not that includes euthanasia in the end. Questions that may help owners plan for this decision include:
- What exactly happens during euthanasia?
- What are my personal options for the euthanasia procedure? Should I plan for it to be done at home, or at the hospital? If there is a specific doctor I wish to perform the procedure, what days is he/she available? What if I have an emergency? Who should I call?
- What about after-care? Am I planning on a cremation for my pet and who provides these services? Would I prefer a burial service and who in the area offers such services?
- If an owner is unsure about euthanasia, what will a natural death be like for my pet, considering the current diagnosis and prognosis?
- Who will be present for the euthanasia procedure? Should I include my family or children?
- What will I do to cope with my grief? (This is especially important for families with children.) Should I plan a special memorial? Should I plan to make a clay paw print or clip some hair as a keepsake?
These are a few questions that the owner will need to answer, and they may need some guidance in making choices. Just knowing what to expect makes the process less stressful.
Every owner is different. Some like to talk about grief and plan for the end. Some are more private and do not want to discuss these things. The best thing to do is to keep an open dialogue and let your clients know what services you can provide and how you can make this change in their life as smooth as possible.
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