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 www.barnabashealthhospice.org.