For Veterinary Professionals: Coping with the Stress of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and a Resource Guide For You

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Dear Veterinary Colleagues and Friends,

The COVID-19 Pandemic has turned our world upside down and continues to change life as we know it. As we cope with new protocols and complex repercussions during this uncertain time, it is incredibly important to remember that we are all in this together. We can still continue to support one another, connect and collaborate within the veterinary community, and positively engage with the world around us.

It is also very important that each of us know and embrace what we have control over versus what we don’t have control over.

Many of our emotions, stresses and daily reactions are universal and completely normal, and it is helpful to remember that we always have a choice in how we respond.

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The upside is that there are so many positive stories, resources and tips accessible online and through social media. The downside is that the current circumstances can feel daunting, and all of the information can be challenging to process and integrate into our daily lives. This situation continues to evolve and it is easy to feel overwhelmed keeping up with everything.

We have worked to make this easier for you, by compiling some of the most relevant and helpful information, resources, articles and tips in one location – here in this post! Here you will find a Resource Guide created just for you and your practice to help you within a variety of areas: VSW Resource Guide – COVID 19 – for Vet Professionals –2- March 2020

We hope this Resource Guide will offer something that resonates for you personally or professionally. We will continue to update the Guide with relevant and helpful information. There are many wonderful free offers and trials currently available within the areas of mental, physical health and well-being. We encourage you to take advantage of these resources, find what works for YOU, and do it! 

Finally, we also want to offer our support and deep gratitude to all of you. Every day, you dedicate yourself to treat, care for and alleviate the suffering of our community’s precious pets. We know that this virus, and the precautions taken to prevent the spread of it, have caused immense strain on the veterinary community financially, emotionally, and systemically.  We, the social work team at Summit Veterinary Referral Center, are here to support your practices, staff and clients as we navigate this situation together. Our support services are available to you and clients by phone or via the free, confidential online video platform, Zoom.

 

Grateful for VetMed

 

Be Well and Stay Healthy – We Are Here for You.

 

Rachel Wright, MSW, LSWAIC (Veterinary Social Worker)

Allison Rolfe, MSW-Candidate (Veterinary Social Work Extern)

Summit Veterinary Referral Center

 

To Contact Us (Monday – Friday):

Email: socialwork@summitvets.com

Landline phone: 253-983-1114

Mondays/Wednesdays: 206.925.3546 (Rachel – work cell phone)

Tuesdays/Thursdays/ Fridays: 253-290-1556 (Allison – work cell phone)

 

What to Expect When you Least Expect it: Animal Caregiver Expectations

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When your companion animal is diagnosed with a chronic or terminal
illness or condition that requires you to care for them, you and others may
have expectations about what comes with that role. This month during the caregiver support group we discussed the challenging, negative, and unrealistic expectations that can be put on caregivers by themselves and others. This added pressure can make a difficult situation even more challenging to manage so it is important to let go of perfection and strive for what is best for you and your companion animal.

Things you should expect:

  1. Expect to make mistakes: you are not perfect and you do not need to be, mistakes happen and that is OK!
  2. Expect your companion animal’s progress to ebb and flow, get better, get worse, and to take time; most treatments are not immediate.
  3. Expect to need help and support: you are not alone and should not feel you have to carry the weight on your own.
  4. Expect some things to go wrong, or for your medical team not to have a perfect answer. Everyone on your team loves animals and cares about the well-being of yours, but sometimes the answer is not clear.
  5. Expect some friends and family (social supports) not to full understand what you are going through, and that they are not perfect. Social supports may try and help by saying or doing things that might seem unhelpful, but with good intent.

Things you should not expect:

  1. Do not expect perfection: from yourself, from your animal, from your supports, or from your medical team. No one is perfect, and we are all trying our best. Your medical team is highly skilled and will do anything they can to help your companion animal, however they are not perfect, and there are still things out of their control.
  2. Do not expect treatment setbacks to be your fault: Sometimes our treatment plans are not exactly what our animal needed, or it did not work as planned. This is not your fault, and you should hold no guilt around this.
  3. Do not expect yourself to do it all: It can be very hard when you become the primary caregiver for your animal and it seems like the rest of the world has continued on without noticing. Friends may ask to make plans with you, and it is OK to say “No” and instead to be with your animal(s). It is also OK to say “yes” and give yourself a break, and give attention to other areas of your life. This does not mean you care for your animal any less, but rather that you are also taking care of yourself.
  4. Do not expect to be alone: while it may seem like an overwhelming task to be the primary caregiver for your companion animal, you are not alone. Ask for help from those you trust, ask for support from your veterinary team, and reach out to other caregivers. You also always have support through Summit’s Veterinary Social Work community!

 

“My caregiving journey is challenging, but I do not journey alone, and my best is enough.” -Anonymous

Grief and Nutrition

 

By: Alyssa Everitt, RD

Summit Veterinary Referral Center – Social Work Intern

If you are grieving the loss of your pet, it is important to know that nutrition is an important part of self-care, especially during grief, but it doesn’t always get a lot of attention. Your body experiences a lot during the grief process–it can be stressful and exhausting. Incorporating some healthy foods into your diet during this time can bring comfort, healing, help you sleep better and improve your mental state. 

TIPS FOR EATING HEALTHY DURING GRIEF

  • Consider asking a friend to start a Meal Train for you in the early weeks of grief. Bringing you healthy meals a couple of times per week can be one practical way for your friends and family to support you during this difficult time. 
  • Keep plenty of easy-to-grab healthy snacks in your house. Stock up on things like apples, nut butter, whole grain bread for toast, fruit, carrots and hummus, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, nuts, trail mix or other healthy items that take little prep and that you enjoy. Choose whole foods or foods made with whole ingredients as much as you can.  
  • Try to eat a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal and snack. 
  • Include foods that have been shown to boost mood whenever you can. Leafy greens, fruit, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, flax and olive oil  contain nutrients that like folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients that are important for mental health. Try making a salad with mixed greens, apple slices, walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil for a healthy lunch option you can feel great about. 
  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol can cause trouble sleeping and can be a tempting way to numb the pain of loss. Avoiding or limiting alcohol to one or two drinks per week during grief can be a helpful way to take care of yourself.  
  • Limit fast foods and sugar. Fast food and foods high in sugar or refined carbs can be an easy go-to when we feel depressed or unmotivated, but they often make us feel even worse. When you eat a meal high in sugar, it causes a quick energy spike, followed by a crash that actually increases the stress hormones in your body. Choosing healthier options–a mix of fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and proteins–throughout the day will help stabilize your energy levels and improve your overall mental state. 
  • Make sure you are eating enough. Many people lose their appetite when they are experiencing grief. Try to eat about 3 meals and 2 snacks, even if they are small, throughout the day to make sure you are giving your body the energy it needs in the healing process. 
  • Drink plenty of water. Make it a goal to drink 6-8 8oz glasses of water per day. Getting plenty of fluids can help you feel less sluggish and prevent headaches. 
  • Limit caffeine. Caffeine is dehydrating and can increase symptoms of anxiety and hurt your ability to sleep well. Try limiting your caffeine intake to one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea in the morning
  • Do allow yourself some comfort foods in moderation and be intentional about focusing on the pleasure they can bring you. Food is comforting and meant to be enjoyable. Eating foods that have a deeper meaning for you can aid in your healing process, especially when you eat them with intention. 
  • Focus on the ways you can feel empowered by the healthy food choices that you make –every apple you eat is an act of caring for yourself. Celebrate the wins! 
  • Share a meal you enjoy with someone you love. It can be hard to eat alone, especially when you are grieving. Reach out to someone you trust and make a plan to cook and eat together at home or visit your favorite local restaurant for a meal you love. 
  • Be kind to yourself and pay attention to your self-talk. Grief is a time of increased sensitivity and the way you talk to yourself matters –try to reframe critical or negative thoughts by replacing them with more positive ones. For example, replace the thought “I’m super unhealthy,” with something like “I am able to choose health with each decision I make and it’s ok if I don’t do it perfectly.” 

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Remember, this is a sensitive time and you are deserving of care and plenty of space to heal. Nourishing your body through healthy food can bring you pleasure, ease the pain of grief, and aid in your healing process. Give yourself permission and time and take care of yourself well.

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For more information and support on caring for yourself after the loss of your beloved pet, please reach out to the Summit Veterinary Referral Center Social Work Team:

socialwork@summitvets.com

253.983.1114, extension 116 

National Senior Pet Month!

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The month of November is dedicated to loving and celebrating our senior companion animals, as well as spreading awareness and information about their adoption and unique care needs! As our pets age, it is important (and fun!) to celebrate all of their milestones, because old age is what we are aiming for with them after all!

 

As our pets go through different stages in life, it is important to remember that they may experience many changes including different dietary needs, lower energy levels, changes in exercise tolerance, vision and hearing loss, and other physical changes. Our senior pets also age at a faster pace that human, so it is important to take your senior pet to the vet at least twice per year to make sure that they are happy and healthy. These senior pet visits can help detect and prevent many illnesses, and aid in helping you care for them in the best way possible!

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You  know your pets best, and you are their best advocate. If you are concerned about your senior pet’s health, talk to your vet! You can also assess your pet’s health and quality of life by paying attention to changes in their:

  • sleeping patterns (increase or decrease)
  • eating habits
  • water intake
  • exercise tolerance
  • behavioral changes

If you are noticing any changes in your senior companion animal in these, or other, categories, do not be afraid to ask your vet questions about their health and wellness. In the meantime, let’s celebrate our senior pets and the show gratitude for the days, weeks, and years of love they have given us!

 

New Offering: Online Pet Caregiver Support Group

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Are you caring for a beloved pet who is aging, has chronic or special needs, or is facing a life-threatening illness?

Do you feel isolated, exhausted, scared, overwhelmed?

Do you find that family, friends and co-workers don’t understand what you are going through?

Do you find that you are on a “roller-coaster” of emotions and experiences as you care for your pet? 

Caring for a beloved animal who is aging, has special needs, or is facing a chronic or life-threatening illness is an honorable and challenging job. While none of us would give up caring for our furry, feathery, or scaly family members, it can be draining and difficult to manage, especially when you feel alone. As a caregiver for your pet, you may find that you are deeply grieving the changes in your animal’s health, behaviors and activities. You may also be anticipating their death and grieving what you know is coming. This is called anticipatory grief and it is a very real experience that is much different from grieving the death of your pet. Unfortunately, many people in this position are left feeling isolated, misunderstood, and lack the social support and self-care tools that they need.

If you are navigating this beautiful and painful journey, we are here for you. As social workers and pet caregivers ourselves, we have found that it is incredibly helpful and supportive to connect with others who are also on this path.

At Summit Veterinary Referral Center, we now offer an online monthly drop-in support group, specifically for Pet Caregivers. This group is here to support you through the triumphs and challenges of caregiving, without taking you away from home where you can watch over your animal friend. Starting November 12th, the group will be held every 2nd Tuesday of the month, from 6:30 pm – 8 pm PST. Group is free, no RSVP is required, and it is facilitated through the online video conferencing medium Zoom. 

For more information, please see the attached flyer:

Pet Caregiver support group November 2019

To join the group and gain online access, please contact Rachel Wright at: rwright@summitvets.com. We hope you will join us!

Warmly,

Your Group Facilitators,

Rachel Wright, MSW LSWAIC (Veterinary Social Worker)

Allison Rolfe (Veterinary Social Work Extern)

 

Pet Loss Remembrance Walk – Sunday, 9/8/19 at Owen Beach

 

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September 8, 2019 is National Pet Memorial Day. Who will you be honoring? In honor of this very special day, we hope to see you at our Annual Pet Loss Remembrance Walk at Point Defiance Park – Owen Beach. We look forward to supporting you, and hearing treasured stories and precious memories about your beloved friend.

Event Details: 

When: Sunday, 9/8/19 – 9:30 am – 11 am

Where: Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach – 5400 Pearl St., Tacoma WA. We will meet and gather under the covered picnic area at the front of Owen Beach parking lot.

Then, together as a group we will take a short walk to a private area for our remembrance circle and ceremony. You are welcome to stay as long as you wish, to quietly reflect on your own, walk, or have conversations with others.

This event is free, and both child and dog friendly. If you are comfortable doing so, we invite you to bring a picture or special memento of your beloved animal friend for our ceremony.

We hope to see you there…

Warm thoughts,

Rachel Wright & the Social Work Team

Summit Veterinary Referral Center

 

Finding Hope and Healing in your Grief Process: Grief Recovery Pet Loss Support Group

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Do you feel overwhelmed in your grief process? 

Do you wish that you had more support from others in your life? 

Are you feeling “stuck” and not sure how to move forward while honoring your relationship with your animal friend? 

Have you experienced multiple losses (animal and/or human deaths, anticipatory grief, other life transitions)?

Do you want to gain specific skill sets and strategies to help you cope and find hope and healing on your journey? 

We are here for you.

At Summit Veterinary Referral Center, we are now offering the Grief Recovery Pet Loss Support Group, an evidence-based curriculum that is a supportive and action-oriented process to help you move towards healing. Moving towards healing is not solely about time, but rather your action(s) within that time. Recovery does not mean “getting over”… rather, recovery means coming out of the grip of the devastating pain of your loss and finding joy, gratitude, meaning and hope on the other side of your process.

Many of us have been taught from an early age or have learned the following myths about grief:

  • Time heals all wounds
  • Get over or replace your loss
  • Don’t feel bad
  • Grieve alone
  • Be strong
  • Stay busy
  • Grief is predictable and moves in stages (there is an “end-point” or “closure”)

These myths are not helpful to the healing process. Losing our beloved animals can be one of the most painful losses we ever experience. It must be honored, felt and expressed. It can be a lonely road and misunderstood by our family, friends, co-workers and society. This group dispels all the myths, honors your relationship with your beloved animal friend, and offers you specific skills and strategies to find hope and healing. You will be surrounded by a supportive community of other like-hearted individuals who can relate to your process.

Details: This is a 6 week group, starting on Tuesday 9/10/19, 6 pm – 8 pm. The fee is $20 (which includes the cost of the book “The Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss”).

Location: SURGE South Tacoma offices: 5401 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma, WA 98409

Facilitators: Rachel Wright, MSW, LSWAIC, Summit Veterinary Referral Center’s social worker/certified grief recovery specialist; Allison Rolfe, masters-level advanced social work intern.

Registration: For more information and to register for group, please contact Rachel Wright at 253.983.1114 ext 116 or rwright@summitvets.com. Registration closes on Friday, 9/6/19.

We hope you will join us!

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Warm thoughts,

Rachel Wright, MSW, LSWAIC

Veterinary Social Worker

 

 

 

Pet Loss Remembrance Walk – Honoring Our Bonds

September 8, 2019 is National Pet Memorial Day. In honor of this very special day, the Social Work Team at Summit Veterinary Referral Center is hosting our annual Pet Loss Remembrance Walk.

This remembrance walk will include a brief ceremony at 9:30 am to remember and honor our beloved animal family members, followed by a short walk at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park. Come be with others in your community who will appreciate and honor your loss and how it has impacted your life. You are welcome to stay as long as you like to quietly reflect on your own, or have conversations with others.

Event Details

When: Sunday, 9/8/19 – 9:30 am – 11 am

Where: Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach – 5400 Pearl St., Tacoma WA. We will meet and gather under the covered picnic area at Owen Beach.

This event is free, and both child and dog friendly. We invite you to bring a picture or special memento of your beloved animal family member for our ceremony. 

For more information, and to RSVP:  please contact Rachel Wright at rwright@summitvets.com or 253.983.1114 ext. 116

We hope to see you there…

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Honoring World Pet Memorial Day

Today is World Pet Memorial Day…we at Summit Veterinary Referral Center, are thinking of those of you who are grieving your beloved animal friends who have gone before you. Our hearts are with you…

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Who have you been remembering today? What memorials or rituals are you incorporating to honor your special friend?

As you reflect on your relationship, what was unique about him or her and your time together? What are your favorite memories? As you pay tribute and reflect on your life together, think about the lessons your friend has taught you (and continue to teach you) that have inspired personal growth or perhaps offered you a legacy of their life that you have paid forward to others. As you move beyond today and honor your bond, I wish for you feelings of joy and gratitude for the many memories…and hope, peace and comfort when you find yourself missing your friend.

In honor of you and your beloved animals ~

I AM STILL WITH YOU

If it seems that I am far away
on this empty and solemn day.
Just open your heart and know it’s true
that I am still right here with you.
If during the day things are going wrong
please don’t feel sad and alone.
Just open your heart and know it’s true
that I am still right here with you.
When night time falls and the day is done
If you are feeling alone and sleep won’t come
Just open your heart and know it’s true
that I am still right here with you.
Close your eyes, and feel the warm embrace
Sleep peacefully in the wings of grace
If sadness finds you in the morning light
if you feel alone, don’t give up trying
Hold this feather close and know it’s true
that I am always here with you.

– Julie Johnson, Wings of Grace

 

~Warmly,

Rachel Wright, MSW, LSWAIC

Veterinary Social Worker