1. A Caring Attitude & Approach
A caring approach involves sensitivity, empathy, and compassion and demonstrates concern for the animal. It also shows concern for all aspects of a patient’s journey--not just the medical, nursing, or psychosocial issues. An unbiased and non-judgmental approach is offered in which personality, intellect, ethnic origin, religious belief, or other individual factors do not prejudice the delivery of optimal care and decision-making.
2. Caregiver and Family Support
Animal hospice caregiver support is designed to help by providing information about physical, emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual self-care; assisting caregivers in evaluating their options; and guiding them as they navigate the unfamiliar territory of their loved one’s day-to-day and end-of-life care. In this way, an acceptable degree of quality of life until the end of life can be achieved for both companion animals and their people. Indeed, animals receiving comfort care may still enjoy several more months or even years of life, allowing the caregiving family to adapt to the dying process and the subsequent death, be physically and spiritually present when it occurs, and eventually heal from the ensuing grief.
3. The Hospice Plan of Care
The patient and family are very involved in determining the plan of care, individualized according to their particular desires and needs, and then updated throughout the end-of-life process. The hospice plan of care must serve the patient’s and family’s values, goals, and beliefs, and its focus is on the whole being who is experiencing a life-ending disease process, not just on the disease itself.
4. A Team Approach to Care
The interdisciplinary team (IDT) is composed of those collaborating with the caregiving family to provide supportive care to an ill and/or dying animal and is a cornerstone of hospice philosophy. Our experience has shown us the value of a carefully developed Animal Hospice IDT: bringing comprehensive care to an animal patient and to the caregiving family.
5. Sensitive Communication
Sensitive team communication ensures that the caregiver and family understand what is happening at all times and are offered proper support when required. Continued reassessment is a necessity for all patients and applies as much to psychosocial issues as it does to pain and other physical symptoms.
6. Provision of Quality of Life
Hospice maintains dignity by focusing respectfully on both animals’ and caregivers’ comfort and quality of life.
7. Ethical Treatment
Treatment known to be futile, given because "you have to do something," is unethical. In hospice care, all efforts are directed toward relieving suffering and maintaining quality of life--not prolonging life at all costs. The primary caregiver is the most appropriate leader of the team, acting as the decision-maker and often intuitively understanding the animal’s preferences, such as refusing a previously accepted treatment, medicine, or food once a variety has been offered. An unbiased, non-judgmental attitude is critical in all decision-making.