Sample script: Discussing palliative care

Do you know how to talk to your veterinary clients about palliative care? Here's a couple approaches you can try.
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Oct 01, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

First, recognize that it's usually palliative care and not true hospice care that many practices offer, says Sharon DeNayer, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager at Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Windsor, Colo. "When we're talking with clients, we usually use the phrase comfort care." Consider these approaches:

OPTION 1: The doctor often starts the conversation with the client for a pet whose illness has progressed to the point where death or the decision for euthanasia may take place in a relatively short period of time—a few weeks to a few months. Provide quiet support and make sure a box of tissues is available. When the client is leaving, ask, "May I call you in a few days to see how you and your pet are doing and to answer any questions you may have?"

OPTION 2: Clients may broach the topic when they think the pet is suffering. You might say, "Mrs. Smith, thank you for sharing your concerns about Baxter with us. We can offer some options to help keep Baxter comfortable. First, let's discuss the changes you've noticed in Baxter. Then we can talk with Dr. Cares to help us come up with some ideas for Baxter's care."

Also consider these tips:
> Avoid phrases like, "I know how you feel" or "You'll know when it's time for euthanasia."
> Listen with your heart.
> Don't ignore the client's pain.

You may also recommend tools to help pet owners track their pets' quality of life. Visit http://dvm360.com/petlife for a free handout.