ElderLaw News — The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Pet Visitation in Facilities

Perhaps you’ve never thought about an end-of-life illness, and what it would actually mean to you. Of course family members would be allowed to visit you in the hospital, but what about a beloved pet?

At present, most hospitals do not allow pet visitation. But a few pioneering hospitals are beginning to allow it, and it has made a significant difference to those people with serious illnesses. For example, a woman in her 70s in Boca Raton, Florida was in the hospital about a year and a half ago. She was delirious from severe pneumonia and was hallucinating that she was in jail. Her husband had the idea that she might be calmed if their pet Maltese, Delilah, were allowed to visit. At first, he was told “no” by the hospital, but their doctor intervened, and Delilah was allowed in his wife’s hospital room. It really affected his wife positively, and she soon took a turn for the better, though the visit was not allowed to be repeated during her stay. Apparently, the hospital was afraid of the precedent it would set.

Fortunately, this is not the case everywhere. A few hospitals across the country are allowing pet visitation. To name a few: University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, two hospitals affiliated with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and more than a dozen others. There are certain exceptions to the visitations. If someone has an open wound or infection, the visit will not be permitted. However, in most cases, the pet is allowed to visit in these facilities, as long as certain rules are followed: dogs must be brought in on a leash, cats in a carrier, permission needs to be obtained from a hospital roommate (if one exists), and a covering is placed on the bed where the pet will lie down.

There is not a lot of research yet on the subject, but small studies are verifying the value of pet visitation in hospitals. One done at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) found that both visitations by pets, and even animals previously unknown to the patient, had beneficial effects. The patients’ blood pressures lowered, as did their levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. At VCU, it was reported that a patient battled bladder cancer for 7 years, before dying of it at age 91. He was forever grateful that he was allowed visits with his Yorkie named Minnie. His widow said, “Minnie would come into Harry’s room and his eyes would light up. It was like bringing home to him. It just made such a difference.” Hopefully, word will spread, and pet visitation will be allowed everywhere.

(Source = Judith Graham, “When Best Friends Can Visit,” The New York Times, April 10, 2013)

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