Dog Visits make big difference at end of life

Dog Visits make big difference at end of life

(Fergus Falls, MN)


Molly Johnson, BS, KPA-CTP, and owner of Canine Comfort of Mankato, MN, gave a presentation this week at the Senior Services Network meeting held the 2nd Tuesday of each month at Hunan Spring Restaurant.  Molly was sponsored by LB Homes Lakeland Hospice who utilize her services in assisting with training and registering their volunteer therapy dogs for making visits to hospice patients.


The purpose of the talk was to encourage people to utilize Lakeland Hospice services as soon as possible when given a terminal diagnosis of six months or less, so that patients can get the maximum benefit from dog visits and the many other services Lakeland Hospice provides. Lakeland Hospice provides assistance with nursing, social worker, and home health aide visits, along with equipment, medication and other benefits covered by Medicare, insurance and Veterans benefits.


“When people wait to inquire about hospice, they are missing out on these and so many other services,” said Mary Widiger, Marketing and Business Development Coordinator for LB Homes.  According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, median length of stays for people on hospice are low nation-wide, with people only being on hospice for 18.5 days when they can be benefitting for so much longer if they start services sooner.


Lakeland Hospice has been offering volunteer visits with registered therapy dogs since last summer.  Currently the registered dogs and their handlers are making regular rounds to patients in the last months of life.  To receive a visit, a person needs to be on Lakeland Hospice services and simply make a request.  There is no fee for this volunteer service and frequency of visits are determined by the patient, family and volunteers.


Fitzgerald William, the three year old Basset Hound, who attended this week’s presentation with Molly, was featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal’s October 21, 2015 print edition regarding a program at the U of M in helping students with homesickness.   A dog of many talents, Fitzgerald showcased his calm, tender and warm presence for the participants at the lunch this week.


“There are so many benefits to therapy dog visits,” said Molly.  “Studies show that dog visits can increase levels of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin; decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol; reduce incidence depression and loneliness; and reduce a patient’s level of emotional, physical, and spiritual pain.”

For more information on dog therapy visits from Lakeland Hospice call (218) 998-1400 M-F from 8 – 4:30 p.m.


Dog Therapy Presentation 021 Dog Therapy Presentation 014




LB Homes, the parent company of Lakeland Home Care, Lakeland Hospice, Broen Home, Sheridan House, Alcott Manor, Woodland Lodge and LB Homes Connect, proudly specializes in living options and care for senior citizens, those living with or recuperating from illness or injury, and those at the end of life. For more information go to online to

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