Hospice care is defined as the comfort care that patients with a prognosis of six months or less receive. Patients in hospice receive symptom relief and stress relief, but they do not receive any curative treatments based on their prognosis.
With that said, hospice care can be provided in a hospice center, nursing home, or the patient’s home. The situation itself can be stressful, lonely, and the last few months of an illness or disease can be physically painful. The goal of hospice is to provide as much relief as possible, which can include pet therapy with a trained animal (usually a dog). This therapy can provide many benefits to the patient including:
Interaction with an animal is a situation such as hospice care can provide many physical benefits that are scientifically proven and beneficial to the patients. Some of these physical benefits include lowered blood pressure, improved heart health, and reduction of physical pain.
All of those benefits can add to the quality of life for hospice patients, which is the goal of hospice care. Other physical benefits that come from pet therapy that contribute to the patient’s well-being include release of endorphins/oxytocin that can have a calming effect on the body, and a general feeling of relaxation. Sometimes these effects from pet therapy are so powerful that patients require less medication.
There are also social benefits associated with et therapy in hospice care. Hospice care can be especially isolating, since the patient may be alone in between checks by nurses or aides. To combat this isolation, pet therapy can be employed. Pet therapy has been shown to decrease feelings of isolation.
Pet therapy also helps to reduce loneliness in patients. Based on interactions with both the animal, the handler, and any other patients who may be participating in a group session, pet therapy also helps to increase socialization for patients and to encourage communication.
Finally, pet therapy is also shown to have emotional benefits for hospice patients. Interaction with an animal helps to provide comfort to patients, which is one of the top goals of hospice care. Interactions with animals can also help to reduce anxiety, which is a real problem for hospice patients.
Some hospice patients may also feel a sense of ennui or apathy, and pet therapy can not only give patients something happy to look forward to but can also give them something to occupy otherwise free time. So pet therapy can also help alleviate boredom and any emotions that may come with boredom for hospice patients.
Pet therapy has many benefits for patients in hospice care. From helping to alleviate physical symptoms and boredom to encouraging social interactions, there are so many advantages to pet therapy that go right along with the goals of hospice care.
These benefits are also scientifically proven, and things like lowering blood pressure and improving heart health can actually help with patients’ overall health. No matter which type of benefit, pet therapy definitely adds to patients’ quality of life.