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Thoughts from an end of life care veterinarian

As we know in this line of work, quality of life is everything. It’s what we look to provide, it’s what we strive to maintain, and it’s what we want for those we care about. In so many conversations we have day in and day out, we talk through what quality of life means. We talk about how it’s not just about physical well being, but also about emotional and mental well being. It’s about having both the “freedom to” and the “freedom from.”

Freedom to make choices, freedom to participate in activities that bring joy, freedom to connect with others. Freedom from pain, freedom from severe or prolonged fear, freedom from significant distress or anxiety. These very basic things are at the heart of each and every quality of life discussion we have with families concerning their loved ones.

And so it’s important to remember that these quality of life priorities must extend not just to those who are under our direct care. They must extend to our entire community… through support, through action, and through the diligence of showing up again and again, day after day, to make sure that quality of life is uplifted and maintained.

How do we know not only whose quality of life is effected, but also how we can help to improve it? We must be willing to listen and observe in a way that is generous. (Search “Generous Listening” for more on this.) We must be willing to take in the information being provided to us without our own internal fears, worries, disappointments, and agendas influencing the way we interpret what we hear. This is a learned skill, like any other, that requires practice in order to improve.

Then, most importantly, there is no quality of life improvement without appropriate and effective supportive care. We must assist not in the way that we feel we want to, or that would alleviate our internal turmoil, but assist in the best way that individual’s quality of life can be improved upon. Are we all going to be able to provide this support perfectly all the time? Certainly not… life is exceedingly messy and imperfect. But that should never stop us from trying, with an effort to continually re-listen and re-observe and re-learn how our efforts are impacting the quality of life of those we are supporting.

We will be continuing to practice this generous listening, and to provide support. During times of grief, there is also the immense potential for growth, change, and connection.

For more read: The Price of Pet Euthanasia, the Cost of Waiting