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Informing Clients about Quality of Life and Death
By Alice Villalobos, DVM
Small animal veterinary practice today parallels the pediatrician model.
But veterinary personnel deal with five times more patient illness and death than most health professionals.
Despite the predictable frequency of terminal illness and death, many veterinary hospital personnel lack the skill to properly interact with bereft pet caregivers.
In addition, the intense exposure to end-of-life care issues and death causes some staff members to develop compassion fatigue, a type of burnout that may not be recognized or understood.
The human animal bond is now acknowledged and celebrated as an important part of people's lives and, at times, may be the best relationship a person has.
The role of veterinarians is to facilitate that relationship by keeping animals healthy.
Veterinarians have an increasing obligation to serve the committed pet owner with improved medical techniques and improved communication regarding quality of life and end-of-life care issues.
We also have an increasing obligation to provide support and reverence when a pet dies, and even reach out to comfort the client in the days following the pet's death.
But where and how do clinics become proficient grief management?
Tools for Staff
Some hospitals have hired counselors to educate personnel. Others give out pamphlets or have grief books in a loaning library.
Staff and doctors need to understand attachment and recognize and deal with anticipatory gri...
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