Hospice Offers “Pet Peace of Mind”

By Mathew Gulick

When you rescue a pet, we all know it’s a forever commitment. But sometimes circumstances change, things beyond our control occur. Sometimes it’s an unforeseen life change occurs, or sometimes your ability to care for your pet changes. There are many ways to prepare for these changes. Consultants provide us many ideas for the forever care of our pets. They include: setting funds aside for the care of your pet, naming a long-term care provider in the case that you can’t be there, ensure your long-term care provider is still up to the task and familiar with the care your pet needs, introduce your pet to those they may join in their new home, include your intentions in your will, interview and contract a pet sitter who can be on call throughout any emergencies as your family and friends will have other concerns, update your intentions annually. These ideas will help your pet have a safe and comfortable transition in the event of an emergency. There are also some additional changes that are on the horizon that offer us some new ideas as well.

Over the past few decades, pets have continued to cement their place in our homes and families. As this furry-friendly transition continues, care facilities are also changing how they operate to accommodate our most favored family members as well. Some of these care facilities allow your pet to stay with you, and provide assisted pet care services and transport to help you care for your pet. As you examine your options, add to your list the investigation of options where your pet can continue to live with you and tour their facility and review the details of the pet care services they provide.

One such facility is Capital Caring is assisting local resident Jeanine Hill. She shares with us her personal journey, as well as that of her two rescued miniature poodles, Bisou and Hope. She saved this mother-daughter pair from a puppy mill eight years ago, and they have been at her side ever since. Reflecting on the life-limiting diagnosis she received in February, Jeanine recently confided, “I did not think about my dogs and how my illness would affect them, but I don’t want to give them up.” As her illness progressed, Jeanine became unable to care for the dogs. Her hospice care provider, Capital Caring, had a new opportunity to share. Pet Peace of Mind®, a program that helps financially with veterinarian care, pet food, medicines, boarding, and grooming.

A Capital Caring volunteer, Nancy Hill, transported both dogs to the nonprofit’s consulting and partnering veterinarians at Town and Country Animal Hospital, where they received examinations, vaccines, and oral surgery. After the tests and medical care, Nancy took Hope and Bisou to be bathed and groomed, and then delivered them back home to Jeanine.

Our pets are members of our families. When someone is facing a life-limiting illness, though, the needs of their beloved companions are often overlooked in the aftermath of the diagnosis, stress, exams, treatments, and projected outcomes. “What strikes me about Jeanine is how much she cares for her dogs and how keeping them at home is so important to her,” Nancy recently said. “It illustrates the great service Capital Caring provides its patients and their families. Capital Caring’s partnership with the veterinarians at Town and Country Animal Hospital was a great salvation and demonstrated to me how all components of a hospice program can come together to really benefit the patient.”

Facilities that understand the importance that pets play in our lives also understand the benefit they provide to our mental and physical health. As we age or as our mobility becomes more limited, our pets often become our primary companion as we spend more and more time in our homes, or a care facility. This relationship becomes even more important during these times and can increase quality of life dramatically. Pets of loved ones also help to soothe and provide solace to a loved one’s family members during the bereavement process.

When you are evaluating a facility or assisted care program look for a program or facility that can provide or allows the following: pets that are allowed full access to the property 24/7 (minus communal dining areas and limited pet-free zones), that have dedicated, experienced pet care team, that allows companies such as pet care companies on property to assist with care when needed, related services such as shopping and purchasing pet supplies, pet transport services to vet, grooming, etc, and pet management services to aid with remembering of tasks such as feeding and care schedules.

“By providing veterinary care, medicines, pet food, grooming, and boarding, we help the family pet remain at home during a patient’s end-of-life journey … it is one less thing for them to worry about … a peace of mind.” stated Karita Knisely, a volunteer services coordinator with Capital Caring. “It is fitting that our first two pets were Bisou (which means ‘kiss’) and Hope because our program is all about giving love and hope to companionship pets, whether furry, finned, or feathered!” said Ms. Knisely.

The Pet Peace of Mind program is a non-profit, largely volunteer-based program which partners with other non-profit care facilities and programs throughout the DMV, as well as nationally. Pet Peace of Mind’s mission is to enrich the quality of life and well-being of hospice and palliative care patients by providing a national support network to help care for the pets they love. We envision a nation where all patients have the support they need to maintain the loving bond with their pets. “It is particularly gratifying when we are able to partner with a hospice that reaches as many people as Capital Caring does.” said Dianne McGill, the founder and president of Pet Peace of Mind.

It’s comforting to learn that services like these are emerging so families such as Jeanine, Bisou and Hope can remain together as companions throughout this challenging time thanks to the services of important programs and partnerships such as Pet Peace of Mind, Capital Caring and exceptional volunteers.

To learn more about Capital Caring’s hospice services and the Pet Peace of Mind program, visit www.capitalcaring.org.