Many of us who have had pets know what an important part of the family they can become. For some, the bond with their pets is similar to their bond with people.
Pets are treated and loved like family members and can comfort their owners much like a close friend or relative. It is no surprise that during one of the most important and challenging life stages - the end-of-life-journey - pets can play a crucial role.
The human-pet bond can take on a deeper meaning during a life-limiting illness, and pets may serve as the primary - or even sole - source of companionship, comfort, and love for some. Loving and caring for their pet can give a patient solace, and even a reason to get up every day. The problem is then two-fold - the pet is obviously not being cared for, and the patient often feels additional stress, guilt, and grief at their inability to care for the pet.
Some patients are fortunate to have a strong support network and receive all the assistance they need. Unfortunately, as some families deal with grief and loss surrounding the patient's illness, beloved pets may be overlooked or treated as an afterthought by family members who are unfamiliar with the patient's bond with the pet.
To help further support our patients in their time of need, Center for Hospice Care has committed to becoming a Pet Peace of Mind partner. Pet Peace of Mind is a national program that relies on a coordinated group of volunteers to fulfill requests for pet food delivery, dog walking, litter box cleaning, or even pet transportation. Volunteers can also help with administrative needs such as making phone calls and scheduling of vet appointments.
By helping care for a patient's pet, the volunteer is easing the burden that can create anxiety and stress on a patient and their family. Dianne McGill, Pet Peace of Mind's president, has overseen the programs that work to help older adults and their pets together and knows first-hand the many health benefits of the human-pet bond.
"I know of countless patients who have said that their pet is their lifeline. Pets are great medicine for coping with the anxiety that comes from dealing with a serious medical condition. For many patients, keeping their pets neat them during the end-of-life journey, and finding homes for their beloved pets after they pass is one of the most important pieces of unfinished business."
If you're interested in becoming a part of this fulfilling new volunteer opportunity, please contact Marlane Huber, CHC's Volunteer Coordinator in Elkhart, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 571-970-0401.