Stories of Inspiration

Mt. Carmel: The Comfort of Companionship

How a cat is making critical connections for residents at Mt. Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center

By Jessica McQuaid | August 14, 2018 | Healthcare

Gypsy the Cat sitting on a bed at the Mt. Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Manchester NH

You’ll hear the name Gypsy quite a lot when you visit the memory care unit at Mt. Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Manchester, but you won’t find a room with that name on it.

That’s because Gypsy is a calico cat, and she claims any room where there is a need.

Found abandoned in a worn-down apartment in Manchester, Gypsy was brought to Mt. Carmel’s memory care unit when she was about one year old. It’s been about eight years since she arrived, and there’s no doubt that Gypsy has found a home at Mt. Carmel.

But she wants you to know that she’s not a pet. She’s there to do a job.

She doesn’t like to be held, won’t scratch people and she won’t jump up on furniture for attention. She knows the staff member who feeds her and will only go to that specific person for food. She won’t ask you for nibbles of human food.

As Carol Gobin, an LPN at Mt. Carmel explains, “Gypsy goes wherever she is needed.”

You’ll find Gypsy roaming the hall looking for residents who need comfort. She travels from room to room searching for a person seeking the company of a warm companion like Gypsy. She even spends the night in bed with those residents who need a little more.

“They’ll make room for her,” Gobin says. “She has an amazing intuition and knows which residents need her. Those are the beds she finds.”

Residents’ families are delighted in Gypsy’s presence in the unit. They’ll bring treats for their loved ones to share with the resident cat because often, their loved one had a beloved pet that is either gone or left behind when the resident comes to live at Mt. Carmel.

“Some residents think it’s their cat, and suddenly they have a connection to home that brings them a sense of the familiar,” Gobin elaborates. “Gypsy is the perfect example of the patient-centered care we make a priority here. Every resident has a unique and special connection to her that only a cat can bring.”

But it’s more than just treats that draws Gypsy to a resident’s room. Sometimes it’s as though she’s answering a call from a higher power.

“She knows the residents who are in declining health, and she goes to be with them at the end,” Gobin adds somberly.

Many family members and nurses on the floor can recount stories of Gypsy’s ability to find those who really need her in the last hours of their life. She’ll climb up on the resident’s bed, curl against them and purr so that the resident knows they are not alone.

Darlene Underhill experienced just this when her mother, who was a resident at Mt. Carmel, passed.

“The night my mother was dying, I went in to stay with her,” Underhill explains. “Gypsy came into the room, jumped on Mom’s bed, curled up and stayed there on the bed with Mom the entire night. I like to believe she knew what was happening and came to provide some comfort during Mom’s last hours.”

Gypsy has even been brought to other floors when a resident is struggling with death. Gypsy will unfailingly curl up on the bed with the person and begin to purr. Nurses witness the resident relaxes immediately and at times, will often pass within hours of Gypsy’s arrival.

“It’s like Gypsy knows this is her second chance,” Gobin explains. “And she wants to give the greatest gift she has. The pure comfort only a cat can give.”

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