The Pet and Leader Duo

21 Sep

The palliative pet and its leader/owner make up a volunteer duo that brings much joy, serentity and vitality to a person at the end of their life.  In support of the dying, many compassionate people find volunteering in an end-of-life care facility or residence to be rewarding as well as a challenging endeavour.  To effectively lead your palliative pet in dealing with dying individuals it is essential that not only is the pet suitable for the role, but that the pet’s leader is equally appropriate and prepared for the environment.  Encountering death is not a common occurrence in our modern-day world and volunteering with a pet in such an environment can be profoundly emotionally impactful.  To ensure that volunteers can effectively function with the dying, their relatives, friends and colleagues, most hospice facilities will require that the volunteers receive training in:

– Awareness of the philosophy of Palliative Care and Hospice Culture

– Understanding the medical issues volunteers may be faced with

– Loss, Grief & Bereavement Care

– Multicultural awareness

– Self-Care for the Volunteer & Caregiver

– Personal/Practical Care in each setting

– Spiritual Care/Psychosocial Care

– Communication skills/Active Volunteering

– Funerals/End of Life Celebrations

When a volunteer visits a person receiving end-of-life care, it is imperative that one has a genuine support for and belief in the hospice palliative care concept.  Having a warm, friendly and mature outlook and being willing to listen without judgement are essential facets of effective volunteering.  We live in a multicultural society and respect for religious beliefs of others without imposing one’s own is fundamental.  It is not ‘about’ the volunteer, it is ‘about’ the person at the end of their life and respecting their beliefs, however foreign, contrary or unjustifiable to you as a volunteer is vital.  Although the visits palliative pets and their leader engage in are often memorable and impactful, the volunteer must at all times respect the confidentiality of the dying.  As a volunteer you will be required to participate in ongoing training and supervision and to follow guidelines developed and implemented by the care facility.  Flexibility is key in volunteering and you may be asked to see patients in hospitals, hospices and private homes.  As you will be engaging with people at the end of their lives, you may become aware during a visit of a medical issue arising during a visit and you must be willing and comfortable with sharing pertinent information with members of the health care team.

Together, the well trained pet and leader duo can provide a positive, engaging and life affirming presence in end-of-life situations not only to the patients but to facility staff and the health care team as well.

Please feel free to comment below!

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