‘This is a way for them to feel connected’: Dementia patients find comfort during time with lifelike kittens

Connecticut Families

ROCKY HILL – When we first met these residents of The Atrium at Rocky Hill in February 2020, they were embarking on a new meaningful initiative – spending time with baby dolls – providing purpose and love.

“This program gives a sense of purpose and creates meaningful connections for our residents,” Executive Director Allyson Sweeney explained.

While the doll program was a success for people with dementia, the pandemic stalled growth, which is now happening with the addition of some furry friends.

“The kittens purr, they knead and they meow when you pet them,” says Sweeney.

Many of the residents, like 96 year old Rose, miss pets from their past.

“This is a way for them to still feel connected to that animal,” says Sweeney.

“I always had a cat, I always did,” says Rose.

“It’s time to do it moreso during Covid, it’s absolutely needed,” says Rama Santhappa of the Rotary Club of Wethersfield-Rocky Hill which donated 26 kittens to the facility. Raising the funds during the pandemic wasn’t easy.

Members Santhappa and Patricia Routhier are grateful to be at The Atrium in-person to see the joy the lifelike animals bring.

“You can go and tell somebody about it but if you weren’t here and felt it and saw the emotion, there’s no way you could explain it,” says Routhier. “It’s priceless to see them.”

“The first thing they do is smile and that’s the most important thing for us in a day is to create moments of joy,” says Sweeney.

This group creates friendships, comfort and laughter – enrichment focused around a common bond.

“I think one of the most important things we can do is to keep our residents who they’ve always been and to walk with them on this journey and keep them connected to their past,” says Sweeney.

The Rotary plans to do more for the residents of The Atrium at Rocky Hill once they get to know them even better and understand their unique needs.

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