A big part of end-of-life care is preparation. By having the conversations and doing the research now, the process will be less emotionally charged with the weight of our pet’s distress and impending end on our shoulders. Preparation is one of the most important ways we can ensure a comfortable, dignified, and compassionate crossing for our companions and the whole family. The conversation should happen before their age or health forces the conversation. Here are some of the topics we should all consider, questions we should ask, and decisions we should think about making now, rather than later.
Part One of this series is available HERE. It’s about having the tough conversations with our vets, our families, and how to prepare in the time leading up to these moments, “End-of-Life Care and the Tough Choices, Part One.” In Part Two, we are covering the ways we can identify pain in our pets, ways to give them the best possible health leading up to the end, and the early conversations we need to have with our veterinarians.
There are a lot of misconceptions about pet insurance and how it can help us approach our pet’s health. The truth is, it can be a valuable investment that helps to lengthen our fur-babies lives because we are able to afford more and better care. We cover some of the most significant questions facing pet parents in this article about the “Most Common Pet Insurance Myths.” We also encourage anyone in need of a clear explanation of exactly what pet insurance is and how we can make it work for our family, to visit this piece covering “Everything You Need To Know About Pet Insurance.” We’ve even done the work and vetted a few pet insurance providers for pet guardians to help relieve some of the overwhelm we all face when first exploring this important option for pet care preparedness.
What To Expect And How To Provide End-of-Life Care
The most important thing to focus on is to minimize pain and distress.
- Consult your veterinarian as a partner in the decision. We spend the most time with our fur-babies so we will be the most tuned in to behavioral changes and other signs of discomfort. However, our veterinarian is a partner in our pet’s care. By consulting them regularly, he or she will be able to help establish expectations, give us important signs to watch out for, and local connections to additional resources.
- Keep the surroundings familiar. This is a time when they may not be going on the morning walks they loved so much. Or they may be missing their favorite window perch. While we understand what is happening, pet’s are only partially able to comprehend why these changes are occurring. Surrounding him or her with a warm blanket, a favorite toy, and making time for them every day, even though it may not be for a walk or normal activity, will ensure their comfort and sense of safety.
- Happily make the extra effort. Whether we have taken full advantage of what they have to offer us, our fur-babies have provided us with a lifetime of loyalty, companionship, and unconditional love. This is the time to be a caregiver without resentment or anger. They can still sense our emotions and don’t need to feel like we are angry at them for circumstances that are out of their control. Many pets will sense they are a burden on top of being in pain, even though they are unable to control the level of care they will need. If ever there was a time to be the guardian our pets have always thought us to be, it’s now.
- Be prepared to provide assistance and teach family the right way to help. As pets age, they can develop incontinence, loss of bladder control, and may find it difficult to get around when they need to. We need to check our pets for accidents, keep them clean, and help them get up when they need it. There are slings on the market or use a large towel to wrap their body, holding the towel ends to keep their body as weightless for them as possible while they walk. This is a simple, but effective technique for providing assistance to get them to a designated bathroom area, or to their bed. Make sure their bed is clean, warm, and has lots of cushioning. Elderly pets, particularly with limited mobility, can develop pressure sores, so adjusting for their health, not just for comfort, is important.
So far, we’ve gone over supplements to help keep our pets healthy for as long as possible. We’ve talked about pet insurance to cover them, and our wallets when medical problems do occur. We’ve talked about ‘having the talk’ with family. And we’ve begun the conversation about what to expect as our pets age, how to observe pain and discomfort, and how to care for them in the early stages of their twilight years or months. Be sure to watch for Part Three in this series. We’ll be covering palliative care, euthanasia, and what to expect.