A pet owner once asked me what’s the most important thing in my euthanasia comfort rooms. Kleenex was my response. The floor could be dirt and the room cold; as long as we keep compassion and the bond front and center, nothing else matters. I believe this for sure however having special touches to keep the space inviting, quiet, and safe makes for a far superior experience. They are ‘living rooms’ within hospitals, making the space feel a bit like home. (Interesting tidbit shared by our International Director Dr. Lianna Titcombe…living rooms used to be referred to as ‘death rooms’ within the home, due to the placement of deceased loved ones for viewings.)
For the past few years, I’ve been working with Heather Lewis and her team at Animal Arts, an architectural firm in Boulder, Colorado. Heather and her team are masters of room design and decor to both calm and strengthen the space at the same time. And I’ve honed my own vision of what a comfort room should entail based on what my clients and patients routinely need, including those elements that keep my team sustainable in euthanasia work and content being in the room for long periods of time. Let’s roll out a few ideas from Animal Arts and CAETA.
Comfort Room Elements
~ Safety – non slip flooring, pads to sit on, just enough lighting to see what’s needed during the procedure.
~ Sensory – biophilic elements*, soothing sounds that drown out external noise, scents that manifest calm and relaxation, room temperature of 75 degrees F or a little under, and soft things to touch such as pillows, blankets, and carpet/rugs.
~ Signals – markers just outside the room to notify staff a euthanasia is taking place, wireless doorbell alerts for clients to communicate with staff during times of privacy.
~ Spaciousness – room for loved ones to gather in comfort on the furniture or floor.
~ Supplies – everything that would be needed to perform euthanasia and emotionally support clients kept in the room ready to go, i.e. injection supplies, potty pads, facial tissue, bottled water, stethoscope
There are countless additional special touches we’ve found make a big impact…
~ Carts and stretchers nearby
~ Furniture extending to the ground
~ Sanctuary spaces for animals to find if anxiety is high
~ Overhead light with dimmer
~ Blackout shades on the window
~ Pheromone diffusers
~ Non-residential deodorizer, i.e. Shiva Shade brand
~ Non-direct-facing animal images/artwork
~ Room fan to circulate air
~ Frosted glass windows for added privacy
~ Treat lick matt attached to the wall, and treats
~ Image of the human-animal bond outside comfort room entries
~ Dry erase board that can be updated with the name of the pet for each appointment, i.e. ‘Molly’s Room’
~ Art therapy kits for children
~ Special items from home like toys, beds, and favorite foods
~ Water and other refreshments for clients
One of my favorite reasons to have a designated comfort room for euthanasia appointments is that it’s always ready for use. It remains a tranquil, spa-like space within the hospital that can be used for staff quiet time, important phone calls, for pet loss support groups, and more. Comfort rooms add value to hospitals in this way. Even if euthanasia appointment volume is low overall, having a designated room ready sends the right message that end-of-life services are important.
For more information about comfort rooms and space design, contact CAETA to discuss their EuHarmony Hospital Training Program.
*Biophilic Elements – nature has a soothing presence and should be included in multiple locations within a veterinary hospital, including the comfort room. These include items like quiet water features, plants, images of the natural world, and sounds of nature.