Pet Visits in Hospice Care

Rogie is a VITAS Paw Pals volunteer. Watch the video to see him and other dogs with their human companions visit VITAS patients to provide comfort and love.

When Animals Do What People Can't

Remember “Lassie”? Each week on the 1950s TV show, the brave collie saved her family and friends from wells, fires and other dangers. The show demonstrated in dramatic fashion what hospice patients experience every day—the devotion of our four-legged friends.

Many facilities have pet visit volunteers: loving animals—and their owners—who are trained to provide comfort and a special kind of friendship to anyone who can benefit, from a child struggling to read to disaster victims and the elderly.

Hospice pet volunteers visit patients in nursing homes, assisted living communities and private homes. Hospice pet visits offer a welcome distraction from illness and help people feel a little less lonely. They leave their patients—and anyone else lucky enough to be around—smiling, more relaxed, maybe even healthier.

The therapeutic use of pets has gained more attention and widespread acceptance as it continues to bring measurable benefits to all kinds of needs. It even has an acronym; HAI research (for human–animal interaction) is the study of the association between pet caregiving and physical and mental health.

The benefits of pet visits include:

  • Comfort care
  • Bringing back memories
  • Encouraging activity
  • Providing unconditional love

Healthcare experts say that hospice patients are noticeably more active and responsive during and after animal visits. But hospice teams, patients and families don’t need statistics and research to see that pets can bring about change that no amount of human intervention or medicine seems to accomplish.

At VITAS, we surround patients and their families with services and resources for quality of life at the end of life.