The Cat Knew


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“When did you guys get a cat?” Betsy’s daughter, Tina, asked.

“Just two weeks ago,” I said. “Why?”

Tina explained that the Memory Care unit cat, Fred Astaire, looked just like the cat that her family had growing up. She was surprised, and happy, to walk into her mother’s room one day and see him sitting on Betsy’s bed. Betsy was petting him quietly.

Betsy had gone out to the hospital before any of knew how sick she really was. We figured that she’d be back in a few days with a clean bill of health. A few hours before the EMTs brought Betsy back, though, the cat went missing.

“Has anyone seen Fred Astaire?” I asked.

A staff member and I went up and down the hallways, calling for him. 

“Hey, Rachael, he’s in Betsy’s room!” the staff member yelled to me from down the hall. Fred had been sitting, for probably an hour, on Betsy’s windowsill, looking out at the parking lot.

About thirty seconds later, the door to the elevator opened up. Betsy was wheeled to her room by the two paramedics. 

“She only has a couple days left,” Tina told me tearfully. “That’s what the doctors said.”

Fred spent much of his time in Betsy’s room until she passed away a few days ago.

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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 two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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