Best practices to which we aspire when visiting our clients
Rules for your dog
- ALWAYS keep your dog on at least one leash. When it is appropriate for a patient to hold the dog’s leash, always make sure that you are holding a second leash to ensure that you are in control at all times. If there is ever a situation that you feel might call for the dog to be off-leash in a facility, you must contact OTD before the situation happens. An OTD evaluator will assess the situation and report back with respect to whether an off-leash situation may occur or not.
- For sanitation reasons, make sure that the leash and collar on your dog are exclusive to OTD work and that these items are cleaned on a regular basis.
- The dog must meet the highest standards of cleanliness and grooming. This includes short and buffed nails.
- OTD identification items on you and your dog can only be used for OTD specific activities.
Appropriate Dress and Identification
- Choose shoes and clothes that are both comfortable and presentable.
- Wear comfortable, closed, low-heeled shoes with non-skid soles, if possible.
- Wear clean shoes other than the ones you wear when walking your dog, especially if you walk your dog in parks frequented by dogs.
- Remember that older people may be more conservative in their outlook on dress and manners. (Jeans & shorts are usually inappropriate attire).
- Emphasize moderation in clothes and accessories.
- Some people are very sensitive to perfume and a heavy scent could make them ill.
- Please wear your OTD badge with your picture and your dog’s picture when on duty. It helps staff identify you and your dog as belonging on the premises and clients can use it to remind themselves of your name.
- Always introduce yourself and your four-legged partner. (“Hi, I’m Suzie, a volunteer here and this is my dog, Rover, a therapy dog volunteer.”)
- When working with older clients, it is always best to re-introduce yourself, especially if some time has elapsed between visits. (“Hi, Mrs. Smith. It’s Suzie and Rover.”)
- Always call a client by their last names (Mrs. Smith, Mr. Brown) unless instructed otherwise by them, particularly with older clients.
- Always knock and ask if you may enter someone’s room or, if in a public situation, ask if a person would like to meet your partner before walking up to them. (“Would you like to meet Rover?”)
- Some people like to see your dog but do not wish to pet him/her. Be sure to ask, “Would you like to pet Rover?”
- Remember to maintain eye contact at the same level as the person being visited by kneeling, sitting on a chair or whatever position facilitates level eye contact.
- Ask before placing Rover on someone’s bed or lap. Do not allow jumping onto the bed. Use a gradual approach by having the dog get onto a chair on the bottom of the bed.
- Use fresh linen for each bed visit. Do NOT transfer linens from bed to bed.
- BE OBSERVANT - Watch for non-verbal cues - Your partner may no longer be welcome, the client may
be afraid or may be tired. Do not overstay your welcome or impose your partner on anyone.
- When saying good-bye, do not commit to a certain date for your return in case you cant make it and potentially disappoint the client. Be general by saying you will see them ‘next time’.
- BE DISCREET - Any information you acquire from residents, staff or other volunteers is strictly
confidential; If you hear anything unusual or worrisome, report it to your supervisor. Do not discuss it with anyone outside the facility.
- If you are discussing a success with a friend, family member, etc., be sure to change the person’s name. Do not describe any characteristics that could lead to identifying the person.
- Individuals have an absolute right to privacy. Anything learned about any individual (e.g., name, birthday, diagnosis, prognosis) is privileged and not to be discussed with anyone at all. It is a violation of the policy of confidentiality to take pictures or videotapes of any individual without release forms signed by the individuals.
Facilities may require their own additional release forms.
- Clients have a right to their privacy and dignity. Never repeat a story that is derogatory, condescending or humiliating.
- DO NOT IMPOSE - You should not use your position to distribute literature, sell products or services, or solicit charitable donations.
- DO NOT ACCEPT MONEY - As relationships are established, clients may want to express gratitude for your visits by offering money or gifts. These offers should be refused tactfully but firmly.
- Similarly, if a client gives you money to buy something for them (cigarettes, candy, a birthday card for a relative), verify with staff that this is acceptable.
- Gifts of nominal value may be accepted in the right circumstances e.g. a picture drawn by a client, a plaque for Volunteer Appreciation Week. Please let OTD know you have received the gift.
- It is essential that you neither lend nor borrow money from clients.
- Respect the people you work with - residents and staff. Remember you are there to help. It is necessary to be patient with people who may move slowly, have difficulty hearing or understanding you, or who are confused.
- Think of the client’s capabilities. Do not pity. Try to understand. Encourage minimum reliance and independence while providing warmth and care.
What to do if you can’t make a visit
- Be regular and prompt in your attendance.
- If, for any reason, you cannot make a scheduled visit, notify your supervisor immediately. Always have the name and number of a contact person or two for each facility you visit.
- If you work with specific clients and will be away for a longer period of time (summer vacation), mention this to your client on your last visit. (Suggestion: circle your return date on a calendar for them.)
- Keep in mind that visiting may be especially needed during the holiday season or on statutory holidays when many scheduled activities are cancelled. If you can, visit.
- Keep your supervisor informed of changes to your address and phone number, the times you are available for visits, and your preferences for assignments.
- Available on a regular basis, for minimum period of 1 year.
- After regular visits, you can easily become attached to ‘favourite’ clients. Sometimes clients are transferred to a long-term care facility. While it is understandable that you want to check on their progress, please remember that your responsibility is to the facility and not to individual clients. Keep in mind that another team may be assigned to the second facility. You’ll be missed but the void will be filled with another caring canine.
- If you want to ensure continuity of visits to a ‘favourite’ client please let OTD know so that we can ensure they are added to the next visiting team’s list of clients.
NOTE: If you have any questions about the above standards and requirements, please do not hesitate to contact Susan Roberts by email.