How Kittens Are Giving Nursing Home Residents A New Sense Of Purpose
November 18, 2016
Many people who move to senior living centers at the end of long, productive, lives — especially those experiencing forms dementia — find themselves frustrated.
Thanks to a wonderful new program called "Bottle Babies", senior living residents are regaining a sense of purpose.
The program allows seniors to feed and play with orphaned kittens who are in need of 24/7 care.
Rebecca Hamilton, the health service director at Catalina Springs Memory Care, came up with the idea to bring kittens to the facility. She's a veteran kitten fosterer at Pima Animal Care Center and knows that really young kittens require constant care. She thought having the residents at Catalina Springs look after them might be a mutually beneficial program.
From the moment the kittens arrived, the staff noticed a significant, positive change in the residents' moods.
"We have noticed that [in] interacting with the kittens, we have residents who struggled with putting complete sentences together, or struggled to find words, could all of a sudden communicate," Hamilton explained about the kittens' effect on the residents. "They could look at you and say, 'This kitten is hungry' or 'I love this little baby.'"
It's a win-win relationship.
The kittens' weights have nearly doubled since the residents took on the around-the-clock job of bottle feeding them.
The feeling of being useful and productive can often be the best medicine when dealing with an incurable disease like Alzheimer's and Dementia.
"To some it may seem peculiar at first: Residents who are in need of around-the-clock care themselves, given the task to care for these young kittens," Catalina Springs Memory Care Executive Director Sharon Mercer, said. "But there are skills, emotions and needs that do not just leave a person with Dementia or Alzheimer's. The desire to give love and receive love remains. The kittens have given us the opportunity to nurture this human condition that lies in each and every one of our residents."
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