Peace of Mind Program Keeps Palliative Patients and Their Pets Together

A program called Pet Peace of Mind operates solely to enrich the quality of life of hospice and palliative care patients by ensuring they are not separated from their furry family members. Knowing that more and more research shows the bond between humans and pets is not just good for physical but mental health as well, they work to support patients and their pets wherever the need exists.

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Pet Peace of Mind is a program that works with 120 hospice and palliative care organizations in 40 states. According to founder and president Dianne McGille, they help approximately 3000 terminal patients and their pets annually. Volunteers do things like feeding and walking pets, or taking them to appointments for health care or grooming. Often, the organization will cover expenses for pet food and other essentials for a patient who simply cannot do so anymore. As well, collaborative organizations often help place pets with new families, even after the owners pass, giving a sense of peace in knowing their loved animals will be cared for.

McGill is a longtime animal welfare worker, and recognized the need for pet care for dying patients about a decade ago when she saw firsthand how a friend was worried about how to take care of her pets while alive and what to do about them when she passed. Many times, surviving family members will put animals down because they can’t take care of them or don’t want the responsibility, and that leaves a huge burden on the heart of a patient already plagued with physical ailment.

When McGill realized that hospices typically could not help, though they said that was a common issue with their clients, she knew that something needed to be done and she started Pet Peace of Mind in Oklahoma as a trial program. In 2015, Pet Peace of Mind became an individual charity that helps palliative care and hospice patients throughout the country.

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For their parts, caregivers see tremendous benefits to patients. According to Director of Volunteer Services with Columbus Hospice of Georgia and Alabama Terri Roberts, patients’ pets are often the only reason they get up in the morning and keep fighting. Some patients love and worry about their pets so much that they forsake their medical needs for their pets’–sometimes even feeding food meant for them from charity organizations to their pets.

The services that are needed vary, and Pet Peace of Mind works with volunteers to meet whatever needs exist. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning a litter box, but others require fostering pets until an owner passes. Patients say that the service gives them a peace of mind they don’t otherwise feel in an end-of-life situation, and they are grateful.

Pet Peace of Mind services can be found on its website, and you can also see if there may be a way you can volunteer to help as well. It’s said it takes a village, and that doesn’t change just because our family members have fur.


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