Section: Barnabas Health Home Care and Hospice News

Maplewood Resident and Barnabas Health Hospice Employee Presents at State Hospice Volunteer Conference


Maplewood, NJ -- Before joining Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center in West Orange three years ago as the Paws for Patients program coordinator, Laurie Berkman served as one of the program’s original volunteers, visiting hospice patients with her certified therapy dog.

Paws for Patients was launched in 2009 by the Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center to further enhance its mission of caring for patients’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Through the program, Laurie saw firsthand the benefits of a pet therapy program for hospice patients when she volunteered with her late therapy dog, Hayley. The therapeutic use of dogs in the healthcare setting has been proven to help orient patients, especially those with dementia, to the present moment. Dogs decrease anxiety, reduce feelings of isolation and even lower blood pressure in patients. In addition, therapy dogs prompt life review, which is especially beneficial to hospice patients because it provides them with an opportunity to reflect on their lives and share pleasant memories of their time with dogs they loved.

“Hayley is the therapy dog by which I measure all other therapy dogs, and I miss her every day. She was excellent and taught me a lot about how to approach our patients and families,” said Laurie, who used her experience as a volunteer as a foundation for her work as the Paws for Patients program coordinator.

In her role at Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center, Laurie oversees the recruiting, training and retention of the Paws for Patients program’s approximately 30 volunteers. She also coordinates and tracks volunteers’ visits with patients and families, maintaining all documentation on dog certification and vaccination, and promotes Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center through her work with Paws for Patients.

Recently, Laurie shared the importance of programs like Paws for Patients when she was selected to present “Benefits of a Volunteer Pet Therapy Program” at the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NJHPCO) 2013 Volunteer Conference, where she spoke about the benefits of a hospice pet therapy program for patients, families, caregivers, volunteers and their dogs.

Laurie earned a B.A. from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. She resides in Maplewood, N.J. with her husband and two children.

About Barnabas Health Hospice
Comfort the Patient. Heal the Family.
The health care team at Barnabas Health Hospice has been privileged to serve more than 52,000 patients and their families during one of the most personal times of their lives. Specially trained experts in end-of-life care are honored to provide comprehensive and compassionate medical, emotional and spiritual care at a time when it is needed most. Our programs, which serve infants, children, adults and the elderly, honor the individual choices and values of each patient and family, while offering full access to the broad array of services provided by Barnabas Health. For more information, please visit

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