Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat (2010) by David Dosa, M.D. is not what I expected. I expected a heart-warming story, maybe with a little humor, about a cat on the floor that is devoted to Alzheimer’s disease within a nursing home. One summary of the book states “the story of a unique nursing-home cat whose uncanny, apparently precognitive vigils at the sides of residents who are about to die has enabled staffers to administer patient care and notice to loved ones.” So I expected the author, Dr. Dosa – a gerontologist – to write about the cat, you know, concentrate on its behavior. The book really doesn’t do that. It does start out that way.
Dr. Dosa has a hard time believing what the nurses and aides tell him about Oscar’s ability to know when a patient is dying and to then stand vigil at the side of the patient. So he starts interviewing the family members of the patients that have died. What he hears are the heartbreaking stories of the families living with and surviving this terrible disease, and they are survivors even if the loved one afflicted does not survive; and, the families do express how Oscar’s behavior comforts them. Dosa gains a better understanding of the disease and how a family member learns to deal with it. Oscar is written with a physician’s perspective on the disease, death, and dying; and, Dr. Dosa believes he is a better doctor and a more empathetic doctor as a result of the talks with the family members.
I have been blessed not to have a family member fall victim to this form of dementia, so I have no firsthand knowledge. I don’t believe I would recommend this book to someone who has experienced the death of a loved one with dementia, but those who may first be dealing with it or are concerned they will be, may have a different perspective after reading Oscar.