Clancy has dementia.
Clancy is a 15-year-old cat, who has been my near-constant companion since he was about 8 weeks old and nearly dead. Our daughter found him while at work; he was lying under a dumpster. Since my beloved cat Chili had died only two months before, she brought this mostly-dead kitten home for me. The rescue process included a transfusion, some medication for a life-threatening flea infestation, a few weeks of hand-feeding and two weeks of my sleeping on the floor so the half-dead kitty could sleep on my chest, feeling the heartbeat and warmth of fellow mammal while he regained some strength. Clancy thrived and enjoyed robust good health.
Clancy met me at the door, tail wagging (yes, he IS a cat) every day. He followed me from room to room; he stood up on his hind legs and patted my hip when I was cooking, looking for a handout. He “helped” me read, do crosswords and yoga. He had a share of every serving of chicken, turkey and fish that I ate for dinner.
Now he has dementia. He lives in a cat-apartment in one room of the house, customized for his comfort with arthritis-friendly ramps to window perches, places to hide, soft places to sleep, quiet music and a chair, where I sit with him every day. He still likes to stretch out on the Sunday crossword puzzle, and he obligingly “helps” with my yoga a few mornings a week.
Sometimes he does not seem to know who I am; he cowers and hides. Other times he is suddenly aggressive. Sometimes he is his old, affectionate, playful self…and then an hour later, I return to find that he has dragged every loose piece of bedding into the litter box.
We have decided that as long as he seems to have a decent quality of life, we will keep on accommodating Clancy. However, we have made the difficult decision to forego any major medical interventions beyond his usual annual checkups and vaccinations. No heroics. How do you know if an animal companion has a good quality of life? When we watch a movie or sit reading and he curls up in my lap, as he has for all these years, it seems so. The next morning, when he hides when I come in with his Chunky Turkey in Gravy and ice water, it is less clear.
If Clancy and I are very, very fortunate, he will slip away from this world in his sleep one night, curled up in the kitty bed he has had for many years, without too much fear or pain.
Dr. Lori Puterbaugh, LMHC, LMFT, NCC
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