Stuffed Animals Bring Joy to Patients
By KELSY TAYLOR
Web Editor and Feature Writer
TICKLED PINK: John Catrett surrounds himself with some of the stuffed animals that have been donated to AllCare Hospice.
KELSY L. TAYLOR for GTR Newspapers
AllCare Hospice Chaplain John Catrett has discovered a new way to better connect with patients. On daily visits throughout Green Country, Catrett greets patients with stuffed animals.
Catrett has been in pastoral ministry for 40 years and is familiar with the various types of therapies that are available to patients. Catrett warmly refers to bringing patients stuffed animals as “stuffed animal therapy.” This therapy is set apart from the others because its purpose is not to treat an illness but to bring smiles and laughs to patients.
AllCare Hospice provides care and services for patients who are facing terminal illnesses. “We treat the whole person who is going through a broad spectrum of feelings and fears. Hospice strives to meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient as well as the needs of the family,” Catrett adds.
Chaplains are not always welcomed with open arms by patients. With the worry that patients are experiencing they just don’t want a visit. “They believe chaplains represent God’s love to people, and they are struggling with the thoughts of why a loving God would allow them to be going though such difficult circumstances. That’s where stuffed animal therapy really helps out. The cute little soft figures can give the patient and the chaplain a connecting point of warmth, comfort and sometimes hilarity depending upon which animal is brought,” mentions Catrett.
Catrett remembers a lot of touching stories about patients who he has visited through the years including one about a lady that loved birds. “On my first visit I picked up a stuffed blue jay to give to her, not knowing her love for birds.” Catrett decided to bring her a different kind of bird each time he visited her. “She loved them all, but her two favorites were an ostrich and a bat. This lady had some issues that were robbing her of her peace and joy. After 5 months of bringing her birds and praying with her, she began to open up and share her deep emotions.”
All of the stuffed animals that Catrett takes to patients are donated to AllCare Hospice. Many of the donations come from collections that children created and would like to donate once they are grown. The fact that so many of the stuffed animals arrive on his doorstep means a lot to Catrett. The act of donating the stuffed animals ensures that someone out there will enjoy them as much as the child once had. “Most of the time they still have the tags on them,” notes Catrett.
Stuffed animals provide something very special to patients. A warm giggle and a story can quickly be the result of receiving one of them. “Since AllCare Hospice loved ones are declining in their physical health they need to be healthy in other important areas of their lives such as family, friends and their faith. Stuffed animals help to break down barriers and assist in building relationships with hurting people that need to be healthy in every way possible as they are in the final season of their lives.” Catrett believes that stuffed animals may not be classified as a valid therapy, but they are great tools. Sometimes the stuffed animals are just a fun element to a visit and “brings a ray of sunshine into an otherwise cloudy room,” adds Catrett.
For more information about All Care Hospice, please call (918) 665-7004 or visit www.allcarehealthsystems.org.