Hospice Part 1: Who the Heck Signs Up for a Broken Heart?
Hospice: It's a word that conjures up all sorts of negative images—at least it did for me. My mind would go to nursing homes, death, suffering. Merriam-Webster.com defines hospice like this: a place that provides care for people who are dying. Yuk.
I have been asked with increasing frequency if I provide hospice care, and I have carefully avoided using that loaded word. “I provide end-of-life care,” I would respond. I don't have a hospital. How could I provide hospice?
At the continuing education meeting I recently attended, one of the offerings was a series of talks on hospice care for pets. I decided it was time to face the issue head on. Guess what I discovered? Hospice isn't about suffering and pain. It's about providing more: more quality, more choices, more dignity, more control. And guess what else? The best place to provide hospice care isn't in a hospital—it's at home, under the care of a committed pet parent.
When we take home that new puppy or kitten, we don't want to think about what happens at the other end of that relationship, but one day we all end up saying our final goodbye to our pet. And, barring a sudden tragedy such as an accident or loss, odds are you may find yourself looking into the wizened eyes of your elderly pet wondering, “Where did the time go?” And at that moment you are in a world of hurt. How do you care for your beloved pet? Is he in pain? Is he happy? Will she die peacefully, or will you need to make the decision to let her go? How can you possibly know the right thing to do for the pet who has always, always been there for you?
Believe me — I get it. This is all hitting pretty close to home right now. As I was sitting in the hospice talks, we were actually going through it ourselves in our family. I recently diagnosed my daughter’s feline sidekick Caliente (pictured) with an abdominal tumor. At only 10, we didn't expect to be here with him yet, but there we were, realizing there was simply nothing more we could do except keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible and enjoy however much time we had with him. We finally said goodbye to Cal last night.
For my first venture into “the blogosphere”, I want to explore what it means to provide hospice care for your pet; what things can be done to make this difficult time less, well…difficult. How can you make your final days with your beloved pet the very best that they can be—both for your pet and for you? So stay tuned for the next installment!