Family Conflict Through Caretaking Decisions and How to Navigate: Part 1

Part 1: Understanding Familial Conflict and Discussion Preparation:

There are many difficult decisions to consider when preparing for your beloved pet’s end-of-life care, such as palliative treatment, medical procedures, euthanasia, and aftercare. It can quickly become emotionally overwhelming and physically exhausting. However, nothing is more heartbreaking than if family or friends carry conflicting opinions about what may be “best” or “proper” to do and whether it must be done at a certain time. While this is a common conflict amidst these caretaking decisions, it places further stress and pressure onto us to make impulsive decisions that we may regret later.

In this two-part blog, we provide some helpful tools and tips for both preparing and interacting with conflicting family members about caretaking decisions that will help everyone “keep the peace” and maintain compassion toward one another.

It is important to remember all the reasons why people may differ in opinion about their pet’s end-of-life care, including: how some family members may participate more actively with medical treatment (and are feeling more burdened and noticing their pet’s physical distress/behavioral changes), financial resources (monetary stress in paying for continuous hospice care), and differing personal beliefs or feelings about their pet’s “quality of life” (what may be acceptable for one person is not acceptable for another). Further reasons involve whether children and teenagers should be included in this decision process (and during euthanasia). We consistently ask ourselves “How much is too much for my pet to handle?” and wish it were simple enough that everyone could immediately agree on the same caretaking decisions, but unfortunately, this is one of the most stressful choices we will all ever face when preparing for our pet’s future.

Preparing ahead for this conversation is so valuable and can include each member completing a “quality of life” assessment ahead of time, writing notes of physical/behavioral changes in their pet, providing past and present photographs to show visual changes, and even personal ideas for aftercare and memorialization of their best friend. It is additionally beneficial if all members monitor quality of life changes together too, such as on a calendar or in a shared journey or photo album.

There is no question that we encounter many difficult decisions when planning for our best friend’s end-of-life care and though nothing would be more soothing than to have familial support and love, unfortunately this is not always the case. Sadly, we may find ourselves having more distressing arguments than heartfelt discussions about what may be best for our pet’s future.

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