Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) hospice patient Connie Cancilla, who resides at an assisted living facility in Vero Beach, had many cats growing up and has always been fond of them. She often shared her love of felines with her VNA caregiver, Heather Eaker, RN, who took note – particularly when she noticed a change in Connie’s demeanor. “Connie is very social and has been her whole life. Recently she’s had a decline and has been staying in her apartment. During our visits she seemed very sad, her ongoing smile and sweetness was burning out,” said Heather. “She was always mentioning how she wished she had a cat, so, I thought, what if we could have some kittens visit?”
Heather reached out to the VNA Volunteer Department which has a program, Project Wish, that is dedicated to providing wishes to hospice patients during their end-of-life journey. “We’d never gotten a request like that before,” said the Director of Volunteer Programs, Sara Bumgarner, “but I was determined.”
Sara and her team did some research and found out about Raining Cats, a local no-kill, feline rescue non-profit run by a small group of volunteers dedicated to rescuing, socializing and rehoming abandoned cats and kittens. She called them up and asked if they could bring a kitten or two to visit Connie, and the Director of Raining Cats, Linda Richter, heartily agreed.
The day arrived and Linda and another volunteer arrived from Raining Cats with two kittens, a calico named Rosemarie and a tuxedo named Parsley – and their bond with Connie was instantaneous. Typically, kittens are rambunctious, especially in new surroundings with new people, but Rosemarie and Parsley snuggled up with Connie, and about 20 minutes into the visit, were happily napping away on her lap.
Connie couldn’t have been more thrilled. “It feels wonderful to have cats here. I’m enjoying them so much. We always had kittens at home growing up,” said Connie with a big smile, “and they are very soothing.” Her nephew, John, who was visiting and who said Connie was like a mother to him growing up since his mother died young, was also very pleased with the visit. “This is so wonderful to see her happy,” he said.
The visit also put a smile on another person’s face, Heather, who was there for the visit. “To see Connie with those kittens, it brought so much joy to see her smiling. Such a small thing that we take for granted brought so much happiness to one person; definitely had some tears. I love my job,” said Heather.
To learn more about Project Wish, please visit vnatc.org/project-wish. There, you’ll learn about the different wishes that have been made possible by the VNA & Hospice Foundation to date. You’ll also have an opportunity to support Project Wish if you choose – we couldn’t do it without the support of all our generous donors.