For seniors suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia, stimulation and joy can make all of the difference in their lives. Now there’s a new program at an Arizona senior memory care facility that does just this, as it allows residents to feed, care for, and play with… KITTENS. This would pretty much make anyone happy (especially me).
The program is called “Bottle Babies,” which was created by Rebecca Hamilton, the health service director at Catalina Springs Memory Care. Since kittens require constant attention, she thought letting the residents care for the kittens could help everyone out.
This is where Turtle and Peaches come into play. They are female litter mates who came to Pima Animal Care in October–in just a few weeks, the kittens doubled in size and the residents were thrilled. Turns out, people really do love cats, even beyond cat memes.
Greg Moore, a resident at the nursing home, became an entirely different person according to Antoinette Manning, the resident care coordinator at Catalina Springs. Moore usually doesn’t talk to anyone. However, ever since Turtle and Peaches joined the the family, Moore’s disposition has completely changed–each day he puts a kitten under each arm and announces that “it’s time for their walk.”
Hamilton explained why her idea has taken off, saying, “They [seem to] recognize them as babies, and the human instinct to nurture just kicks in automatically.” Essentially, the residents feel helpful, which gives meaning to their days. It’s also helping with memory loss, as another patient, Thelma Bradfield, was able to recall childhood memories of her childhood growing up on a farm with 19 cats.
It’s been estimated that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute on Aging. Regardless of whether someone’s dementia is mild or severe, losing independence and memories is incredibly devastating. The fact that a kitten can help bring extra joy into someone’s life only seems like a great thing to me–a treatment more nursing homes should employ.
Sharon Mercer, Catalina Springs Memory Care Executive Director, said it best:
“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. 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.”
As someone who has had several family members struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s, I can truly say how worthwhile it is for these patients to have this opportunity to receive and give love, as well as have an activity to occupy their minds.