HOW to Prepare for Animal Hospice across your Pet's Lifespan
With the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition or a natural decline in health, AHELP Project can help you create a plan for your animal friend’s end-of life care using this 5 step process...
Planning for their healthy lifetime includes preparing for the time they will need you most at the end. Former AHELP Board Member Julie Forbes regularly shares the lessons she learned from her heart dog Chewy with her listeners on her "Dog Show" on Alternative Talk Radio 1150 (credit: Julie Forbes)
In our last blog, we suggested reasons you’d want to plan for your animal family member’s care. You'd want to understand your options and feel empowered to act in the best interest of your entire family.
You’d want to be able to act upon veterinary treatments that might extend your animal friend’s lifespan, like cancer surgery or chemotherapy. You’d want to explore alternative therapies that could contribute to quality of life, like massage for pain control or acquiring a wheelchair for improved mobility. If you have one (or more), you’d need to consider the needs of your other healthy pet(s). You need to do all of that while maintaining your own well being as it comes back to you as their caregiver. You’d also want to consider your human family’s needs, for they support you by contributing to “care for the caregiver.” Lastly, but certainly not least importantly, how much is this going to cost? AHELP Project can help you in this planningprocess.
Baby planning. College planning. Retirement planning. End-of-life care planning.
Society has developed tools that allow us to save and prepare for life events. We begin college funds and retirement funds and we create birthing plans and living wills. Planning is in our nature when we strive for the same good quality of life until the end of our lives. When in need, if possible, we choose the higher road, independently overcoming vulnerabilities, keeping in control - and if we’re lucky, surpassing expectations. It’s in the plan we create for ourselves.
It's time we shifted the paradigm of end-of-life care. While your animal friend is still in healthy adulthood, you should live in the moment and not with a fear of what’s to come. Pause and put it into perspective: Plan with the end in mind.
With the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition or a natural decline in health, AHELP Project can help you create a plan for your animal friend’s end-of life care.
- Take out a pet insurance policy if you don't already have one. Understand that these are more expensive to initiate with your pet's age, but if you take out a pet insurance policy before they develop preexisting conditions you won't have those chronic conditions as exclusions. For medical insurance for your pet, we like the Seattle-based company, Trupanion (www.trupanion.com).
- Set up a savings account dedicated to veterinary care. Designate how much will go to curative treatments and how much will be available when the care shifts from cure to comfort. You might be surprised how your budget can adjust to these automatic withdrawals if the money is allocated directly from your monthly income. Be aware that sometimes these accounts aren’t enough for you to cover all expenses, and you could make up the difference in options like a healthcare credit card (see www.CareCredit.com). You could also consider grant funding through foundations that specialize in emergency medical needs but we have found there is an application process that can be cumbersome. The typical processing may be unreasonable considering your pet’s condition, and quick decision-making puts you squarely in position as the person responsible for payment.
- Set an agreement for caregiving with trusted ones so your animal companion has good care in case you become unable to care for them. Create a living will that includes pet care, with specifics saying what services are best for them. In your absence, this will take the pressure off your trusted executor(s).
- Discuss your wishes with your family. As their best friend, this is the step that we at AHELP consider to be most important. According to hospice philosophy, the family includes the “patient” (your pet) and your extended circles, all of whom love and care for each of you. It makes sense to talk to your animal friend about what you want, and then to judge whether it’s also what he or she wants. Trust the intuition that will guide you. This is definitely done in a quiet moment, and can be verbal, heart-based, or both. Some find the assistance of animal communicators to be helpful. We find that in most cases, quality time dedicated to the process will take care of it.
- Write up your plan in the same way an Advanced Directive would be written. Be sure you complete this important last step! Once you have your written intentions, make copies for your pet’s medical records and make sure everybody on your animal friend’s care team understands and has ongoing access to them. We have templates for you to make this easier and more complete.
Though this process may seem lengthy, we at AHELP Project know that comfort for your friend and for your family allows you the time to understand your choices. This understanding will lead to empowerment and allow you to make the best decisions when the appropriate times come.
Comfort. Choices. Empowerment. AHELP Project.
In our next blog post, Marketing Director and AHELP Project Board Member Tracy Campion, Seattle Pets Examiner columnist, will discuss her journey to a peaceful euthanasia for her senior horse, Misty, based upon her “path of least regrets” that she created with our support.