A small insight into end of life care at The Ralph
Here at The Ralph, we are passionate about end of life care, so much so we have a member of our team who champions it every day – Alanna. In her role as Champion of End of Life Care, Alanna is inspired by the notion to “make every moment, including the last, special”. Some people may consider this role as ‘morbid’, however the end of life care extends to more than euthanasia – it encompasses those last acts of kindness we can provide our animal companions and the support we can give to the families and team members affected.
Alanna recently held a workshop with some fellow Ralphers to discuss our approach to end of life care. Below is an insight into some of our considerations.
Understanding the grieving process
“I believe that if we can become more open and more confident having conversations with carers about end of life care it will help them to be more comfortable with the decisions they are making for their pets, easing the transition for the pet, helping the carers to come to terms with the loss and aid the grieving process.” – Alanna
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed a framework for the stages of grief in 1969, and now following a loss, someone inevitably mentions the ‘five stages of grief’ – this refers to denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
As a bereaved pet carer, how you feel and express your grief will be unique to you. It is difficult to encapsulate this in a linear framework such as the five stages of grief, and while it is useful for some, it can be distressing to feel you should be grieving in a certain way. The stages are not expected to flow from one to another and each person’s grieving process is deeply personal, sometimes touching on only one or none of the stages. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Here at The Ralph, we have a dedicated quiet space for pet carers to spend time with their companion animals during their last moments. Our not-for-profit website theralphsite.com, which our CEO and Founder, Shailen Jasani, set up in 2011 following the loss of his beloved cat Ralph houses lots of free support resources.
Euthanasia is one of the most difficult decisions anyone can ever make for their pet with a number of different, and at times, conflicting, emotions existing concurrently.
We understand this and support carers in their decision-making without judgement. Talking through the option of euthanasia can be really useful and relieve some of the anxiety surrounding the subject.
Alanna said, “I see euthanasia as the last act of kindness that we can provide for our animal companions. If carried out compassionately, taking into account the pet carer’s wishes and the needs of the patient, then euthanasia can become less taboo and a dignified ending to a special life.”
Supporting our team members
For those of us working in the veterinary community, it is important to remember that euthanasia will affect us too. It may be that we have sadly lost a number of patients in a short space of time or it could be a patient that we became attached to or spent a lot of time treating. Whatever the reason we need to make sure that we look after ourselves and support one another.
“We work in a profession where we look after and care for others day in day out but we often then forget to look after ourselves.” – Alanna
Take time each day to do something you enjoy or that makes you smile and most importantly of all don’t feel guilty for it – self-care is not selfish.
The medical pause revolution started in human healthcare in 2009. The purpose of “the paws” is to formally capture the moment and respectfully reintroduce the age-old practice of stopping and honouring after someone dies.
It is simple yet powerful and captures the complexity that accompanies our exposure to death. It’s a moment for us to breathe, reflect and regroup and offers some ability for us to move on to caring for the next patient to the best of our ability.
Before we opened our doors earlier this year, it was important that we found a pet cremation service who could provide our patients who have sadly passed away with the same level of compassion as those we continue to treat.
We chose to work with Dignity Pet Crematorium in Hampshire, who offer individual cremations and respectful handling of pet bereavement. Find out more here.
If you are grieving the loss of a beloved companion, or are interested to read more about pet bereavement please visit www.theralphsite.com. There are an accompanying blog and a private Facebook group as well as links to finding pet bereavement counsellors. The Blue Cross offers a Pet Bereavement Support Service provided by trained volunteers.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog.