RAVE REVIEWS by Jean E. Eustance
David Dosa. M.D., has written a book about Alzheimer’s disease which has a light touch. The framework of the book is about the cat Oscar who lives in the Alzheimer’s ward of a nursing home in Rhode Island. Somehow he knows when patients are dying and this cat goes to their rooms, and lies on the beds, and stays with them through their last hours. Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat is in the non-fiction section of the Pine Bush Public Library.
The body of the book is about (a.) life in a nursing home in the Alzheimer’s section where there are several cats, not only Oscar. (b.) Dr. Dosa going outside the nursing home to talk to the family members of people who used to be patients there. And (c.) a look at Alzheimer’s disease. This is a reasonably-thin book, and it does not get down in the trenches with the caregivers and family members who must live with someone who is losing his or her mind and memory to dementia. The book talks about Alzheimer’s, and the people talk about watching their loved ones go downhill, but the text is not gut-wrenching.
Furthermore, Dr. Dosa writes about himself lightly, and makes himself say silly things, and then realize that they are silly. One example follows.
One woman was trying to explain to him how it was to care for her mother at home, when her mother had dementia.
She said, “I had to have a strategy just to be able to work, care for my son, and be there for my mother.” (And Dr. Dosa said) “That must have been hard on you.” Donna looked at me as if I’d just said something like “It must snow a lot in New England in the winter.” (And she said) “David, unless you go through it, you truly have no idea. I had no life for myself.”
One of the pages which got to me was when someone named Joan talked about her father forgetting how to fasten his seat belt.
She said, “Every time we’d go for a drive, my father would ask me to show him how to buckle his seat belt and I would go over it in painstaking detail, like I was teaching a young child to do it for the first time. But he never got it. I’d get so angry with him that he couldn’t do it rather than just accepting the fact that you can’t teach something to someone who is “unlearning” everything. Ultimately I had to figure this out for myself. Perhaps every caregiver does.”
After that, it is a relief to get back to the cat. The theory is that Oscar can smell something that tells him the end is near for a certain patient.
“When cells stop working, you get a state of starvation and you can smell ketones,” (Dr. Dosa said,) referring to the sweet-smelling chemical by-product that can also be sensed in out-of-control diabetes.
Patients, family members and staff of the nursing home all seem to appreciate Oscar and the company he provides. He visits with the person, lying by the person’s side until that patient has passed away, and no longer needs him. Oscar the cat provides company and comfort for both the patient and the patient’s family.
This is a nice little book about a horrible, big subject. Please find it in our non-fiction section upstairs.