What is Quality of Life? The definition of Quality of Life is “the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group.” Typically when I consider this, I am thinking in the context of a pet and how to assess when it is time to let them go over the rainbow bridge. Lately the term quality of life has taken on new meaning for me. My recent quality of life has suffered because I am worried about helping my parents and a friend through a difficult illness. Considering a future without them brings on a sadness that permeates my every day. I cannot control the outcome or inevitability of what my loved ones are going through, but thinking and worrying about it impacts my quality of life. I know many pet owners are going through this same worry with their beloved pets (and perhaps other human family members too).
Our lives seem to be made of schedules and events in a timeline. I am worrying about an event that is in the future on my timeline. When I reflect upon the past, I think of major events- graduating from 6th grade and taking a trip to Miami to visit my Dad (we went deep sea fishing repeatedly upon my request), graduating high school, attending college, moving to Arizona, getting married, moving back to Wisconsin, having a baby, attending Veterinary School, getting my DVM degree, divorcing, working as a “real vet” for the first time. There are events and days that really stick out in my mind- where I was on 9/11 and the night I met my now husband- but these events are really only a tiny portion of my life overall. Most of my life is made up of ordinary days, doing ordinary things- making breakfast, driving, doing office work, replying to emails. These days are not painful (except when my back hurts from driving too much), and the things I do give me a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of helping others, but in the background is constant worry over the future.
How do our pets consider their lives?
They certainly don’t have major events to reflect upon. Some pets may remember a recent past when they left the shelter and came to their new home, but most probably do not remember where they came from or consider their lives as a series of events the way we do. They live their lives every day centered in the moment and concerned with ordinary things- when do I get fed, when do I go for a walk, can I get petted, do I need to use the litterbox. They do not worry about an illness or anticipate how it will evolve over time; they just think about how it is affecting them today- right now- trying to do what is in front of them.
When everyday life gets difficult for them, their quality of life suffers. That is the time to start considering using a Quality of Life scale such as JOURNEYS to evaluate their comfort. Think of the JOURNEYS scale as a “Quality of Life Quiz,” checklist or assessment.
Try it here: The JOURNEYS Scale.