Keeping Hospice Patients and Their Pets Together in OH

Reader Lisa in OH contacted me about a new non-profit organization called Hospets which she launched in memory of her father, Larry Stearns.  Lisa writes:

Basically the way it works: Hospice or Senior Services will discuss our program with their pet owning patients. If the patient seems interested they are referred to us. At that point, we go to the patient’s home and meet with them, their family and their pets to determine what their needs will be. Do they need helping getting pet food? Does their pet need to be taken to a vet or to a groomer? Do they need helping with basics (walking a dog, cleaning a litterbox etc) During this meeting we will also determine if they have a plan for the care of their pet in the case of an emergency hospitalization, and what is the plan for the pet when the patient is no longer with us. We will get photos, a full bio on the pet, medical and vet info and emergency contact information.

If the patient opts to use us for emergency care or for placement services, they will sign releases allowing us to get vet records and also to allow us to take possession of the pet when needed. We are on call 24/7 and can come pick up a pet as soon as we are notified by Hospice. This will keep the pet from having to enter the shelter system. Usually when an elderly person is rushed to the hospital and there is no one left in the home to care for pets, animal control is called and the pets are seized. Because of the situation, pets don’t even have to be held for the stray time! While the patient is hospitalized, Hospet foster homes will provide respite care for the pet. If the pet owner is requesting that we place the pet in a new home, we will screen potential adopters while the pet remains with the patient. The goal is to keep the patient and their pet together as long as possible.

This sounds like a great service.  I haven’t come across an organization like this before and wondered if any of you have.  Please share in the comments.

26 thoughts on “Keeping Hospice Patients and Their Pets Together in OH

  1. All that I can say is reading this brought me to tears. What a wonderful service they will be providing for the people and the pets that need them most. God Bless them.

  2. Oh thats awesome.

    I actually had someone ask me if there was such a service anywhere. This person is a nurse, and had a patient come in for an extended hospital stay on short notice and the patient was worried about her dogs. The nurse helped her find a temporary home, but was horrified by the fact that there was no such service.

    I shall be passing this along!

  3. Having lost both of my folks to aggressive forms of cancer in a very short period of time (both of whom received hospice help), I know how important it was to them to remain with their cats. We had a plan in place to rehome the cats when the time came but during their last months they shared a singular focus: stay in our own home with our feline therapy partners. I know a lot of folks don’t have the same support system we have in our family so I was thrilled to read about this organization. Incredible, Lisa, just incredible.

    1. I’m sorry about the loss of your parents. I can’t believe that I was so clueless about the need in the community. It took having my Dad live with us for 6 months while under the care of Hospice before it even occurred to me that there was no one helping these people and their pets

  4. Lisa, How much does the service cost per month on average? I was wondering if we had a figure, maybe we could set a donation goal and sponsor one month’s worth of pet care for someone who faces an inability to pay. I understand costs likely vary with number of pets and other factors but is there an average figure you could provide?

    1. All of the pet food and litter is being donated, so that is covered. This biggest expense is vet/grooming. Most of the patients haven’t been able to get out and get care for their pets or had no way to pay for it, so we see a lot of really matted dogs and dogs with talons for claws. I can get discounted rates. Until this really takes off, the expenses monthly are only running about $100.

      I also want to be clear that we are a non profit in Ohio but our 501c3 status has not yet been approved.

      1. Yes, and probably more than one person. Usually it is just a matter of getting a pet groomed or vaccinated. When that is the case, $100 would cover at least three people. Sometimes we do run into cases where the pets need dental work done but fortunately (knock on wood) we don’t see that too often.

  5. I had never heard of a program like this. I was thinking as I read this how terrible it would be to come home after an emrgency trip to the hospital to find that your dog had been seized and adopted to someone else or worse, destroyed. Something everyone needs a plan for.

    1. When something like that does happen, the patients can very easily lose the will to live. It is heartbreaking

  6. After we lost dad and our focus turned to mom, her focus was very much on “the cats will outlive me. What in the world will I do?” Once we came up with a plan, a great weight was lifted from her shoulders and she could focus on her chemo and just trying to enjoy each day, knowing she had precious little time left. These animals bring so much to our lives. We all know that. But when someone is seriously ill or dying, that bond takes on a greater meaning than most of us could know. In days filled with pain and uncertainty, the simple contact with a beloved animal is worth more than any chemo cocktail known to medical science.

    This is somewhat OT, but if you’d like to read my short tribute (which I’ve shared here before), it’s on my web site on this (somewhat) hidden page.

    I’m up for a donation to this very worthy cause in honor of my folks.

    1. I have read Brie’s tribute to her parents before and it’s lovely. Thanks for the offer to donate. I’m going to put up a post on Friday reminding people of the opportunity to donate if they are able. Friday is my payday! But of course anyone wanting to make a donation to Lisa’s group at any other time is welcome to do so.

  7. Welcome Home Sanctuary Inc. does most of these things. But we work through word of mouth and have not advertised as we are a small Sanctuary and must be cautious not to handle things that we cannot commit to. IE: we have a hospice patient whose cats we are going to take. She was going to give them up earlier, but we counseled with her, and now she is keeping them longer than she previously intended, knowing that they will not be abandoned when she can no longer make it work. We promised the space would be held for her kittehs. I feel it is SO important to make the transition for terminally ill and elderly patients as easy and worry-free as possible.

    1. Great job Morgana,
      I really hope to see more programs like this spring up across the country. I have already spoken with people in PA and TX who are hoping to get something started in their areas

      1. I really hope that it reaches Pa. There is a need for the Pets to be taken care of like this, I was thinking about something like this to. When they need help to get there pets to the doctor and can’t take them , They could have help getting them there, And even getting there pets for a walk when they can;t do it anymore, I feel you love your pets so much that this would be a great thing to do for the hospice people and there hospets, And to work with them before they need to go to the home or hospice that they can keep there pet at home with them, and make sure they get food and water each day, I would like to see more programs like this, And I hope this can be done with the right kind of people to have a great insight about loving others pets,

    2. I suspect that most of the GOOD rescues would do their best to work with someone in that situation, the problem is how do people find out about those rescues.

  8. This service is SO needed. Seems every week I get an email about pets that have landed in a shelter or need to be rehomed because someone died or were sent to a home or just can no longer care for their pets right. Every town/city needs this for its people and pets.

    Wishing them the best at growing this organization.

  9. I think this is a wonderful thing to do. Recently, just north of me in Virginia, an elderly man was placed into assisted living housing by his family. The man was so heartbroken and a lady posted a plea on FB for help to get the man and his senior companion dog back together. Well .. it wasn’t long, money was raised, affordable housing was found that would take the two seniors and the two of them moved back in together. Very Happy Ending.

  10. We have a great organisation here in the UK that offers similar services.

    What does the Cinnamon Trust do?

    The Trust’s primary objective is to respect and preserve the treasured relationship between owners and their pets. To this end it works in partnership with owners to overcome any difficulties that might arise. A national network of over 15,000 community service volunteers has been established to provide practical help when any aspect of day to day care poses a problem – for example, walking the dog for a housebound owner.

    A national fostering service is provided for pets whose owners face a spell in hospital – volunteers take pets into their own homes and supply love and care in abundance until owner and pet can be reunited.

    The Cinnamon Trust also provides long term care for pets whose owners have died or moved to residential accommodation which will not accept pets. Arrangements are made between owners and the Trust well in advance, so owners do have peace of mind in the knowledge that their beloved companion will have a safe and happy future. Emergency cards are available on request.

    When a pet is in the Trust’s care either short term or long term because the owner is in care, the owner is kept in touch with visits, if possible, or regular photos and letters.

  11. Incredibly wonderful – and something I would like to be involved in. Most of my rescue dogs are seniors these days. Thankfully (it’s odd to say this), my parents’ dog did not outlive my dad. I thought she would but Dad didn’t. Of course, had she, either my sister or I would have taken her in. Thank you, Lisa in OH!

  12. My day job is actually working in the hospice industry. The Banfield Charitable Trust gives grants to hospices to set up programs just like this through their “Pet Peace of Mind” program: Their goal is to keep pets with their people for as long as possible, which includes financial assistance for pet food and care, volunteer assistance for pet care, and when needed, after-death placement of pets. There are at least 3 hospices in Ohio with this program, and many more across the country. From my understanding, they have more funding for this program than they currently have grant applications, so please spread the word!

  13. Susan I tried approaching our local Hospices about the Banfield program and told them about the grant money available. The Hospices all said that with the budget cuts they have had to handle, they were not interested in taking on a program themselves but would love to be able to refer it out to a group that handles it all. Hopefully more hospices in Ohio will get a plan in place and take advantage of the Banfield grants.

  14. I am a breeder/exhibitor of dogs and also work for a hospice agency with a number of pet-loving individuals and a very active group of therapy dog volunteers. We have discussed this topic many times over the years, and have offered assistance to our patients and their families on a number of occassions. Some of the staff currently or have in the past either adopted or fostered a patient’s pets after their death, and we have also aided finding placement and transporting when staff members are unable to take one in. I will be doing more inquiry into these groups as it is definitely something that many hospice patients need assistance with.

  15. From “Life with Dogs” —

    “…a man forced to give up his beloved dog when his health failed said he has been heartbroken ever since.

    That heartbreak was exactly what motivated a group of sympathetic Heartland Hospice workers to search for and find the family that had adopted Teddy after he was relinquished. When hospice worker Tirah Brown told the family about the man and his history with the dog, they agreed to allow Teddy to visit his former owner in what would be an incredibly emotional reunion.

  16. The topic of what happens to our companion animals when we become unable to care for them is of vital importance to me. When my late brother went into the hospital (2008), I wasn’t expecting him to die, and we had not taken the time to start finding new homes for his many rescue cats. All of a sudden, it hit me that in addition to my own family of furballs, his indoor and outdoor population of cats needed a guardian. Now I am trying to figure out a good Pet trust plan that might let the remainder of my/his animals live in my home if they survive me. Even a stay in the hospital would be a big problem for a person living alone as I do, and entering a hospice or suddenly dying may still place their lives in jeopardy. Pet trusts have to be funded with $$ (life insurance or own funds) and there need to be people ready to execute my wishes to care for them. I liked it a lot better when I was young and “thought I’d live forever” instead of being in my 60’s and working at trying to outlive most of them. Lots of people think their kids will take the animals, but that doesn’t always work out. Even if you have only one or two beloved pets, their care when you can no longer be there takes some work, and perhaps some legal/financial agreements. I’m very glad to hear that some people are beginning programs to address these needs as our population as a whole ages.

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