There is a path near my home, a place I try to go to a few times a week to run or walk or just think. I seem to sense when I’ve been away too long and find myself yearning to walk among the wild things. It is where I find balance, a sense of perspective and peace. After all, it’s hard to see your life as the center of the universe when surrounded by trees that have been around for hundreds of years. This is one of the ways that I care for myself.
Self-care is important for everyone, but especially for those that find themselves in the role of caregiver. Providing pet hospice care for your pet can be a very demanding job, full of emotion and anxiety. We have to remember that we can only give what we have. If we want our pet’s last days to be full of comfort, safety, calm and love, we have to be able to bring those things into their lives. The love is the easy part. Unfortunately, most of the other emotions you are experiencing may not in harmony with that goal. Your mind may be full of anxiety, fear, exhaustion, grief and profound sadness. These are all normal and appropriate reactions to your pet’s illness and they should be acknowledged and addressed if possible.
Anxiety & Fear
These are emotions that usually arise from the uncertainty of the situation at hand. Learn as much as you can about your pet’s medical condition. Ask you veterinarian for reliable Internet sites to learn more. Beware; the Internet can also be a new source of anxiety, especially if you find yourself in animal related chat rooms. Your goal should be to learn reliable information that will help you understand your pet’s future better. Anxiety can also arise from not being able to tell if your pet is suffering. Consider utilizing a veterinarian whose practice is focused on pet hospice. They can help alleviate a lot of fear by providing education and regular assessments, as well as promoting realistic expectations and formulating emergency care plans. Remember, no matter how much you educate yourself, death will always carry it’s own mystery and uncertainty.
No one is at his or her best without a good night’s sleep. Providing pet hospice care is hard work, so try to make this a priority. If your pet’s medication is interfering with you getting a “solid 8”, talk to your veterinarian about modifying the schedule. If your pet is keeping you up, then he or she is probably not sleeping well either. Talk to your veterinarian, as untreated pain, anxiety or other uncontrolled clinical signs may be contributing. If you suffer from insomnia for other reasons (anxiety, depression, anticipatory grief), consider discussing this with your doctor or a trusted therapist.
Grief and Sadness
It is probably not news to you that the grieving starts the day we are told that our pet is dying. The term anticipatory grief is used to describe the very real feelings of grief we experience even before the loss has occurred. This can cause very normal, although often unexpected feelings like sadness, anger, fear and hopelessness. These feelings should be experienced and honored, but be cautious about how you express them in front of your pet. Cry with a friend, go for a run, scream in your car…do whatever it takes to bring a calm, comforting presence to your pet’s days. Try to see yourself through your pet’s eyes. Your exhaustion and inconsolable sadness can be very confusing for a pet that has devoted their life to making you smile.
The decision to provide hospice care to a beloved pet is a very loving one. Helping them live their best days at the end can be a real gift to them and your family. Taking the time to care for yourself will insure that you have the energy and generous spirit to do it well.