23 February 2012

Post 482: Making Rounds with Oscar

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gifts of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa. ISBN: 9781441721235 (audiobook)

This is a book about Alzheimer's disease and end of life care in disguise of a cute and cuddly book about a special cat. Don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful moments with Oscar the cat that help pad the moments where Dosa goes into depressing or difficult territory. I was impressed with Dosa and this book for doing the same thing that certain topical children's books do. I'm talking about books like Heather Has Two Mommies or the various children's books that are now out about divorce. Dosa tackles emotionally complex issues surrounding aging and memory loss, but does so in a way that is comforting. What is more impressive, is that he also broaches the topic of the need for improvement in health care, end of life care and treatment, and for doctors to be more open and forthcoming regarding hospice in terms of what it is and when it should be considered an option.

I will admit that I do not have a great deal of experience with nursing homes. What little I have had was frightening and confusing. The first time I went to a nursing home was for my paternal grandmother when I was about 14. She had a somewhat severe case of dementia at the end of her life which was likely caused by complications from diabetes. There were moments when she did not recognize who I was, she would cry uncontrollably, or at best would simply not respond or act like we weren't in the room. This was especially distressing for me since I was grandma's favorite, mostly because I was her much desired girl (I was the last grandchild born and she had no daughters). Part of the reason it was so unsettling is because I wasn't prepared for it, and so I wasn't expecting a bunch of elderly adults to do things like run into walls or yell and scream for no reason, and those were the patients I didn't know.

My next encounter with nursing homes was a bit better. For one thing I was older and my maternal grandparents were in slightly better shape mentally and physically than my paternal grandmother. My grandpa had undiagnosed Alzheimer's, and my grandmother had balance issues, cancer, and struggled with organ failure several times before she passed. My mother's family also transitioned from assisted living to hospice care, which made it a bit easier for me to cope with.

The difference between knowing what to expect a person's medical condition to be and the unknown is drastic. The surprise of it can be hurtful and shocking, whereas if a person understands how a disease works, it might be easier to adjust to it, as well as appreciate what the afflicted person is capable of, rather than focusing on what they have lost. This book does much to prepare people dealing with Alzheimer's, in one way or another, for what will come next and provides steps that can be taken to make it easier for all parties involved. And it does so in a way that is not as brutal as a brochure or pamphlet from a doctor's office.

There's an excellent review at Bookworm's Dinner.
LibsNote: Library copy via Overdrive Media.

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