The Cat's Meow.

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Ellen* has Dementia with Lewy Bodies, so it makes her a little different from our other residents with Alzheimer’s disease. For the most part, Ellen keeps to herself. She can usually be found in her room with the door closed. As much as I try, she doesn’t want to be involved in group activities. She’s also very quiet.

There is one thing that Ellen likes to talk about, though: her cats. She has three stuffed cats that she keeps in her room. Some days, I am pretty confident that she doesn’t believe that they are real. Other times, though, I think she does believe they are real, live cats.

“I have to hide them so no one takes them,” she said, pointing to her bottom drawer. I reached in and pulled out three furry stuffed cats.

“Hmm,” she said, with a smile. She reached out and took the cat, petting the top of its head. “Your eyes are in there somewhere,” she said, pushing some of the fur away from the cat’s eyes. 

Ellen told me how her grandmother used to live on a farm where they’d raise cats for catching mice. As a young girl, Ellen ended up just bringing all the cats indoors and playing with them.

She continued to pet one of the stuffed cats throughout the conversation. “Her fur is so soft,” Ellen commented.

I think today, if only for a couple seconds at a time, Ellen believed that the cat was real—and I enjoyed being a part of that moment.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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