Helping Clients Assess Quality of Life
By: Shira Rothberg, LSW
While it might feel uncomfortable, sad or even painful to help discuss end-of-life care with a client, it is a very important and a necessary part of the life cycle of an pet.
First and foremost, you must get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable when dealing with end-of-life issues.
When a pet parent starts having to make difficult decisions about their pet’s quality of life, it is important to communicate with compassion, empathy and conviction. Just because something you discuss makes a pet parent cry, does not mean that you should shy away from continuing the discussion. If a client becomes tearful, it is perfectly appropriate to ask if they are feeling overwhelmed, need to take a break, or want to continue. This will show that you are aware that this is an emotional topic for them, that you are compassionate and empathetic.
A client might ask, “What would you do if it were your pet?” Pet parents might ask this for several reasons; they feel as if you are the expert, they are experiencing self-doubt, they are too conflicted to make a choice, or they need reinsurance about their decision. The best way to answer this is by empowering your client. Remind your client that they are the expert on their pet. Nobody knows their pet the way that they do.
Even if they don’t have the capability to make the “right” decision for them and their pet, they will arrive at the decision in time. Remind your clients that they are NOT required to make a decision on the spot. Providing education on all of the available options will allow your clients to absorb and process the information in a way that will make them feel more comfortable. Your role in this is to support whatever decision they make while keeping the best interest of their pet at heart.
Remember, just because your client’s pet might be approaching the end-of-life, does not mean that the relationship will be ending soon. The way a client is supported during this time is crucial when providing recommendations within their community as well as if they will return with a future pet.
Even if you disagree with a pet’s end-of-life care, you must set your feelings aside and maintain your role as being a supportive pet care provider.