Halloween is over but not for residents in Senior Living Homes. Often you will find dogs, birds and fish tanks in senior living, but mostly you will find cats. They provide so many benefits that are tangible and some that are just plain SPOOKY!
The tangible benefits of cats in Senior Living are:
. They provide love and affection for residents.
· They get out of the way quickly and are not a trip hazard like dogs.
· They do not need to be taken outside.
· They don’t bark.
· They are small enough to carry or have on your lap.
· Seniors tend to not be allergic to cats when they get older.
The non-tangible benefits of cats can be traced back to ancient Egypt, although all cultures seem to have some sort of positive or negative relationship when it comes to cats and the Spirit World. They are believed to walk between both worlds, possessing a sense for what is yet to come. Egyptians saw this as a God-like force while Christians associated it with the Devil and Witchcraft.
In Senior Living environments, cats seem to sense when a resident will pass much sooner than the staff or family, and they will go on a “death watch” until the person passes, not leaving their side. This can sometimes be as long as 10 days.
I have visited senior living homes for the past 20 years all over the world, and the first time I experienced this phenomenon was at a Catholic Home for Aged Nuns. When I asked why the cat wouldn't leave a sisters room I was told “she’s on a death watch”.
When I asked what this meant, they said the cat could sense when someone would be passing soon, and the cat was 100% accurate. It was very helpful to prepare for a sisters passing so they could notify family and friends. They seemed to be comforted that the cat had a special connection to death and was viewed as a positive omen vs. a negative one.
Since this time, I have found that this is not uncommon. While we tend to think that vitals, lab results and other clues are the keys to knowing if someone is close to death, cats seem unconcerned by the tangible aspects of what we define as someone being alive. They read the “spirit” with Spooky Accuracy and have a protective instinct to stay with the person till they move on to another world……..Watching and Waiting as a guardian.