Keeping Hospice Patients and Their Pets Together

For many of us, pets are part of our family. As a social worker, I have witnessed the heart-wrenching decisions some of our hospice patients have had to make when they became too ill to care for their furry family members.

 I’d like to share one of those stories:

 As I entered my patient’s home, I found him sitting on the couch with a beautiful long-haired cat by his side. I immediately noticed their bond. As we talked, I saw that there were many others. Tabbies entered and fled the room, fearful of anyone other than my patient.

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 He explained that these were all stray cats. He opened his home to them – caring for them and feeding them when he could not adequately care for or feed himself. Here was a young man in his 40s, bravely facing a terminal illness – alone. The cats were his only companions. He was never concerned about himself, only the future of his cats.

 My task was clear – I needed to meet the daily needs of both my patient and his pets, such as securing food for both. I needed, above all else, to help him fulfill his end-of-life wish to ensure that his beloved cats would be cared for when he was no longer with us.

 It happened on a weekend, an emergency transfer to the hospital and then our Hospice House. He was in distress. No amount of care or medication could bring peace. His heart was breaking for his pets who would have no home and no one to care for them, and so it began, phone call after phone call to animal rescues, shelters, animal lovers.

 I entered his room at the Hospice House, softly calling his name. I shared that a shelter had agree to accept all his cats and showed him a picture of his favorite companion at his new, temporary home. He couldn’t speak but nodded in acknowledgement. He passed shortly – at peace, knowing his beloved cats were safe.

 When my patient could no longer care for his cats, we weren’t sure how to help. It was pure luck that we were able to find a shelter that would accept them. At the time, Carolina Caring did not offer specialized services to help keep hospice patients and their pets together for as long as possible during their end-of-life journey. Experiences like this one showed us that pet care and placement services were desperately needed.

 I’m so proud to say that Carolina Caring is now a Pet Peace of Mind partner. We’re one of only six nonprofit hospice providers in North Carolina offering help with veterinary care, boarding, grooming and basic in-home care for the pets of our hospice patients who are not physically or financially able to do it themselves.

 We are committed to keeping families together, including their furry companions, but we can’t do it without your help. If you would like to make a donation to Pet Peace of Mind, visit  www.carolinacaring.org/ppom or contact Reece Woods, Development Coordinator at 828.466.0466 ext. 2507.