I recently read Making Rounds With Oscar. The Extraordinary Gift of An Ordinary Cat, by David Dosa, M.D. While the title and cover flap purports that the book is about a cat it is really about dementia. It is a book about living and dying with the disease. It offers insight into how caregivers cope with losing a loved one; not in death but by watching them disappear into their minds. Here are some highlights that I took from the book:
· Age really has nothing to do with memory, and problems with memory are never normal aging. People assume the two are related because memory problems become more common as we age. Yet memory impairment is always abnormal and should be [evaluated].
· You have to learn to play a role and distract a person with memory impairment. “We could never bring our mother back to our reality. We had to go to hers.”
· Many doctors don’t consider hospice until the very end because they don’t understand the concept. Hospice care isn’t limited to the end of life. It can be can indispensable resource, a [type] of support. Hospice can provide the necessary custodial care and nursing support needed to keep patients at home.
· Imagine the anger and irritation of constantly confronting a college-educated [person] who can’t figure out how to button [their] shirt or turn on the television. You would get angry. Unlike a child that is learning, a patient with [dementia] is “unlearning.”
· A doctor can give you a label but it’s not about that. There’s nothing in the name. You want to know how to deal with the disease; what it’s going to do to you. Ultimately it ceases to be about the name of the disease; it’s about the need to maintain a normal life, to be able to live life fully and in the moment despite the diagnosis.
· Today there are over 5 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s and hundreds of thousands more with other forms of dementia. The tragedy of dementia is not measured by the number of patients directly affected. For every patient with dementia, there are many more caregivers whose lives will never be the same.
|Dr. Dosa & Oscar|
My great-grandmother suffered from dementia. Maybe "suffered" is not the right word because I don't recall her suffering. She was quite happy. I can remember visiting her with my cousins and our parents would remind us that Great Grammy may not know who we were. It never seemed to matter to me. I knew she was my Great Grandmother and I loved her. And I knew she loved us; at least she loved having a visit from children. That’s all that really mattered.
A dear friend of mine died of old age at 91, having suffered with dementia in her last years. My greatest joy is that whenever I visited her she knew who I was. She might ask me where I lived, not remembering my home of 20 years but it didn’t matter because she knew my name.
My mother is aging and we are fortunate that she is not dealing with dementia. Yes, even she admits to slowing down and feeling tired, but her mind is sharp, her heart is young, and she remains active in her community. (Plus, she follows my blog, so I have to watch what I write). Seriously, as I write this I think of my mother, and my aunt and uncle. It is important for me to keep these notes in mind as I watch them age.