May 24th, 2010

20111112, Marilee

Making Rounds With Oscar by David Dosa, MD

Full title: Marking Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat

The title is actually quite misleading. The idea is that Oscar goes to sit with a patient for their last hours and keep them company (there's some indication that he can smell something that tells him). It's true that finding more about Oscar pulls Dosa, and us, to the stories, but the book is really stories about the families of the advanced dementia patients and how they deal with the advancement and the death. Some are hit hard when their loved one is "unlearning" -- doesn't know how to use a seat belt anymore, for example. Some insist that everything be done for their loved one even when it wouldn't help and might actually make them less comfortable.

Dosa, a geriatrician, covers the third floor at Steere House, a nursing home, and realizes that while he enjoys finding out about how Oscar sat with the soon-to-be deceased, that talking to the family gives him a lot more information about his speciality and how life works. He includes his own problems with an unusual form of arthritis that has already made him unable to play sports, but he can still tie his shoes and take his kids down stairs (should probably buy a single-floor house now).

The book is well-designed and easy to read. Each chapter has a quote about a cat, some with attributions, some anonymous. One of the anonymous is "A cat is always on the wrong side of the door," and I remember james_nicoll said that when one of his cats is on the wrong side of a closed door, it brings its toys to the door.

One of the surprising things for me is that it has a lot of things that have happened to me in my medical history. I originally planned an additional post, but I had way too many notes. He says "Yes, it really is all about function and about learning to play the hand you're dealt," and I think I've managed that.

Even people who aren't familiar with dementia or are uneasy reading about death might like this book. It's a good story and a bit of a revelation.