Thursday, September 3, 2009
Have you ever noticed how animals help us take our minds off of our problems? So many times I find myself deep in thought or preoccupied by a problem when, out of the blue, my dog or cat will do something silly, or affectionate or even naughty and bring me back to the moment. I find myself laughing out loud when I realize how much time I'm wasting, worrying about things I can't control and then suddenly, my cat is right in front of me, chasing her tail. Hmmm, could it be that she's trying to tell me something?
Pets do this for hospice patients, too. Patients grow weary of talking about their failing health, or working through emotional subjects around the issue of dying. Instead, like many of us, they enjoy talking about their pets, where they came from, how they got their names, the things that they enjoy the most about their companionship. It's a great relationship builder for hospice staff and builds trust. We encourage all of our staff to learn the names of patients' pets and to take the time to listen to those stories. It gives our patients the opportunity to share in the things that all pet owners have in common, in other words, to be normal.
I'm currently testing a form for volunteers to use when they visit a patient to take a photo of them and their pet. The interview form will give patients the opportunity to tell their stories about life with their pets so we can share them with others.