Aging Parents: The Pet-Human Bond Through Illness and the End of Life

“What will become of my pets if I get sick too sick to care for them?
What will happen to my pets when I pass?”…

…Sent from Dianne McGill, who founded Pet Peace of Mind in 2009.

It appeals to the animal-lover in me and the fact that I can make a little difference. I asked Dianne if she would share from her experiences and her program. The result: Dianne’s contribution written for my readers.

“What will become of my pets if I get sick too sick to care for them? What will happen to my pets when I pass?”

These questions are on the lips -and in the hearts- of many people facing debilitating illness or end of life issues. For those who share profound bonds with their pets, the connection is akin to that of a family member. It is no wonder that during the end-of-life journey, pets can play a critical role.

For these pet families, the human-pet bond takes on deeper meaning and value. Pets may serve as their sole source of companionship and provide a sense of responsibility and purpose outside of self. For many patients, they view maintaining a strong relationship with their pets as a reason to get up every day. When friends stop visiting because they don’t know what to say or how to act with someone who is terminally ill, pets often provide a significant source of unconditional love and acceptance about what’s happening in the patient’s life. Very few people can imagine what the end of life journey feels like yet time after time, we observe pets providing a sense of normalcy and stability in patients’ lives.

I know of countless patients who have said that their pet is their lifeline. The bond they share helps cope with the anxiety which comes from dealing with a serious medical condition. For many patients, keeping their pets near them during the end of life journey and ensuring the pet will have a loving home after they pass is one of the most important pieces of unfinished business.

In reality, most patients will need help with pet care issues at some point during their illness. Some patients are fortunate to have a broad support network and receive all the assistance they need from family or close friends. Unfortunately, as loved ones deal with the grief and loss surrounding the patient’s illness, treasured pets may be overlooked or treated as an afterthought by those who are unfamiliar with the patient’s bond with a pet. Pet Peace of Mind provides the solution to this challenging situation by helping local nonprofit hospice and palliative care organizations meet the needs of their patients with pets.

Pet Peace of Mind educates hospice and palliative care organizations about the importance of pets in the lives of their patients and helps them support those pets in practical ways. Our program provides a turnkey approach to help them establish a local program to train volunteers to help patients with their pet care needs and to find new forever homes after the patient passes on. We help them deliver help to patients when and where it is needed, provide funding to launch the program, and provide ongoing support so they are never going it alone.

This video link’s title, Maxwell Finds a Home, shows the program in action. Watch this video to learn more about our work. To learn more about how you can receive help or help a patient in need visit

Help Aging Parents With Late-Stage Cancer or Terminal Illness and a Beloved Pet

Do you know about Pet Peace of Mind?

As we think about helping parents and elders we care about age well, we know support of friends is priceless. We’re also aware of the research showing connections with others help people age well. Neither “friends” nor “others”  is defined as “pets,” yet in a quiz show couldn’t everyone complete the phrase “a man’s best friend is… his dog.”

As the old year ends and a new year begins, I focus on the continuum of life, and the fact that helping parents age well continues throughout the life cycle–until the very end.

Different stages call for different kinds and degrees of help–obviously. While we support independence and endeavor to lift spirits throughout, in the beginning, when parents are aging–but relatively young, our support is more often focused on the fun things–outings, new clothes, special trips, great birthday celebrations.

This changes over time to more practical help. And don’t we feel like we hit a home run when we can add something that is both practical and spirit- lifting when bad things are happening in elders’  lives…in this case, advanced terminal illness.

In an effort to help pet-loving aging parents with terminal illness who– on top of everything else–worry about their pets, I want to call attention to the nonprofit Pet Peace of Mind program. I learned of it a year ago when I wanted to make a contribution to hospice in memory of my cousin and asked if there were any special programs that could use funding.

Click the above link to learn about the program. Watch even a smidgen of the video below to understand its impact.

Terminally ill elderly people have already–by necessity– given up so much. Wouldn’t the best gift for pet-loving elders be to have their pets cared for and be able to enjoy them on this last part of their journey? Pet Peace of Mind makes this possible. And isn’t having have peace of mind and their pet’s companionship a priceless part of aging as well as possible…until the very end.

Related:    Pet Peace of Mind hospice locations in 34 states
                  Pet Owners in HospiceThings to Consider


Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.