Pets are an increasingly important part of our lives and especially so for many older people. For some, their dog is the most important being in their lives with a strong attachment bond that gives them companionship and helps to get them through tough times. For those who have few friends and family they can be almost like next of kin.
I was at Discover Dogs yesterday and watched an amazing display of golden retrievers and their owners. The troupe developed when some of the owners from a dog obedience class decided to keep the group together. The relationship between the owners was great to see and I imagine being involved gives them all a lot of fun and social support.
As well as the relationship and common bond between the adults, the strength of attachment with the dogs was very apparent. It made me wonder what would happen if one of the handlers was in hospital, how they would really miss that attachment.
Recent guidance by the British Association of Critical Care Nurses included the issue of pets and visiting and how the conflicting needs of infection control and the psychological boost of a pet can be balanced.
As the report says “Critical care nurses have to consider if it is justified to let that pet visit as long as it is appropriate and that sensible infection control precautions are taken and the visit is limited to the pet’s owner only”. And adds that “the hope and joy raised by the visit” of a beloved dog “might make all the difference to the patient in terms of will to survive”. And this must be the case not just in critical care but in all inpatient situations.
When I watched the dogs with their owners at the event, it was clear to me just how much people care for their dogs. The wealth of shopping opportunities – treats, toys, grooming and even outfits (No, we do not need a dinosaur outfit for the dog) made me realise how dogs become family members. So when patients are separated from their pets they will not only miss them, but also worry about them which can impact negatively on recovery.
Have you any experience of helping patients see their pets?