Patches the cat helps residents at Parkland Place’s Memory Care house

MELFORT— Patches the cat isn’t your usual resident at Parkland Place’s Memory Care house, but a beloved one.

Memory Care house is a home for residents with memory issues, such as dementia or alzheimer’s disease. Currently there are 18 residents – excluding Patches.

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Patches doesn’t have memory issues, nor opposable thumbs, but Memory Care house is her home.

“She feels very at home in that house because that’s all she’s ever known,” said Jacquie Sundelin, recreation therapist with Parkland Place. “We’re very fortunate; staff have been just wonderful too. They have looked after her and they bring her treats.”

It was September 2017, when the residents first met their would-be tiniest resident – a six week old stray.

“She found us, she found our patio and the residents started feeding her,” Sundelin said.

Before long, the weather grew cold, too cold for a kitten like Patches, so the residents opened the door and let the kitten inside.

“They opened the door and in she came, and she hasn’t left,” she said, before laughing.

“We took her and got all of her shots.”                                                                                   

Now a three year old, Patches goes from resident to resident throughout the day, sleeping in beds with the ones who want her to.

“She just makes sure all her people are good,” Sundelin said. “She lays in bed with them, and sits on their lap and they can pet her.”

When she isn’t laying on laps or beds, she roams throughout the house, sitting on the patio from time to time – staying near her humans.

Sundelin said Patches has been an asset to the house, providing a calming environment for the residents.

“It makes them reminisce about when they had a cat at home, brings back old memories,” she said.

“We have some residents that have some behavioral problems and were violent and we didn’t need to intervene with medications or anything because of the cat… It had a calming effect on them.”

Sundelin said there was one instance in particular where a resident with dementia had a  violent outburst.

“All we had to say is, ‘Where’s the kitty? Where’s Patches?’ As soon as he saw that cat he became a different person and totally calmed down. He sat and pet the cat and forgot what he was upset about.”

In Sundelin’s professional opinion, she believes Patches takes the residents to a different time.

“He may have been a cat lover when he was younger, or had his own cat.”

Residents take part in her feedings, with the help of staff – who also give her some treats on the side.

“She has his own designated area where she does the business and gets fed,” Sundelin said. “It’s in a safe place, but the residents are able to feed the cat, because it’s their cat.

She gets many treats.”

Due to the success with Patches, Sundelin hopes to someday have small residents for all the Parkland Place homes who would like one.

“We have 105 residents in total. We have six different houses,” she said. “We have animals that visit right now; we just weren’t sure how an animal living here would make out. So we wanted to make sure we did some of the groundwork done before we go and get another pet.”

Sundelin said there isn’t a timetable for this, but rather “when opportunity comes about”.

“It’s very therapeutic for our residents and they love the animals here.”

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