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Pet project provides hospice patients with peace of mind
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Pet project provides hospice patients with peace of mind

Cookie, the hospice family’s four-year-old shih tzu, with Phyllis Hewins, RN, case manager with the Renee Denmark Punia Community Hospice of Greenwood House.
Cookie, the hospice family’s four-year-old shih tzu, with Phyllis Hewins, RN, case manager with the Renee Denmark Punia Community Hospice of Greenwood House.

Imagine that you are terminally ill and living at home. You have a dog or a cat and wonder what will happen to it after you are gone. Or maybe, because you are sick, you can’t take proper care of your pet or are struggling to pay the bills to a veterinarian.

Those can be serious end-of-life concerns for hospice patients who live in their own homes, especially if in-patients are not permitted to keep pets with them.

Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Banfield Charitable Trust, a nonsectarian hospice in Ewing operated by the Jewish-run Greenwood House is easing anxieties for pet owners.

The Pet Peace of Mind program can make a big difference in a patient’s quality of life, said Janet Hayden, director of social work at the Renee Denmark Punia Community Hospice of Greenwood House in Ewing.

“Just like a patient wants to have closure and tie up loose ends with their family, they want to make sure their pets are cared for properly after they’re gone,” she said in a June 24 phone interview.

So far, two of her 25 clients have taken advantage of the brand-new program, but the Pet Peace of Mind is prepared to expand its reach.

The Banfield grant funds pet food, veterinary care, boarding, dog walking, and simple companionship.

“We’ve found places for pets after our patients are gone,” said Hayden. “Local veterinarians and animal shelters have offered their services and, in addition, volunteers walk and groom pets for people who can no longer do so.”

One Greenwood House patient who died recently “had two dogs, and they were his whole life, literally,” she said. “Just to have them climb up on the bed or be able to watch them walk back and forth gave him such pleasure. He wanted to make sure they would be cared for properly and placed for adoption.

“Our program brought him peace of mind, because for most people who are pet lovers, their pets are part of the family,” Hayden said.

“One of our goals is to provide support to clients and their loved ones so they can concentrate on time spent together,” Greenwood House executive director Richard Goldstein wrote to NJJN in an e-mail. “For many people, time spent with their pets is what makes them happy. We strive to provide the highest quality of life for our clients, and this program helps us reach that goal.”

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