Hospice Care: Innovative Service for Terminally Ill PetsPublished September 1, 2009
It appears that Hospice facilities where services designed for terminally ill patients with palliative and respectful care are able to share their final days with those they love, is no longer reserved just for humans. Inspired by many people who have experienced hospice care for a family member and have been moved deeply by the dignity at the end of life, some veterinarians are beginning to explore offering hospice services for terminally ill pets. Rather than spending the end of their lives cooped up in a hospital cage, separated from loved ones, the concept is starting to be embraced by veterinarians who are teaching their clients to administer pain control medication, holistic care and assisted feeding at home. And while some pets are only able to survive for a short time, others respond and can live, with this supportive care, comfortably for years. Kathryn Marocchino, founder of the Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets located in Vallejo, California comments, "These are the people who consider pets a part of the family and want to do whatever it takes to be there for them up until the end." She added, "It is a service, I think, people are going to be asking for more and more." A group of about 100 veterinarians around the country are beginning to add this service to their regular practice. The Argus Institute at Colorado State University in Fort Collins is one of the facilities which are solely dedicated to end-of-life treatment. The Nikki Foundation's annual symposium which will be held at the University of California, Davis, in September will bring many practitioners from around the country to learn more about end-of-life care for pets. This conference will hopefully bring more veterinarians on board to be able to offer hospice care to their clients. According to Marocchino, there is a growing interest from human hospice workers as well, and are planning wings to their human facilities for terminally ill pets. There is at this time a renovated two-story house located on 20 acres which serves as both their non-profit business offices for the foundation and also has an area for inpatient care area for those families who are not able to financially, physically or emotionally provide care for their terminally ill pets in their own homes. A long time human hospice social worker, Sharen Meyers notes that there are times when people hasten to euthanize their animals when there are no available alternatives, and feel tremendous guilt, feeling that they have "killed" their beloved pets when receiving a "terminal" diagnosis. When hospice care is an option, most people will opt for it, feeling that they are contributing to the well being of their pet and taking an active and loving part at the end of their pet's life. Meyers, who also runs a pet loss support group says, "When people walk through the hospice process thoughtfully and consciously, it lessens the intensity of the grief afterwards." This loving, caring alternative service is one that pets and human caretakers will surely benefit. It gives me a greater sense of security and feeling of peace knowing this will be a choice that I can make when those difficult decisions must be made. Would you choose Hospice care for your pets? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.