Obsessions in Alzheimer’s

This video shows a woman with Alzheimer’s who is obsessed with finding and helping a non-existent cat. The obsession happens over a two-month period and you can tell she’s very distressed. She is always looking for a cat — wandering the streets and even breaking windows to go out and find this cat. Her daughter (Mulligrubs1) is very patient and reassures often that the five cats they own are safe.

OK, I’ll throw this out there —  I wonder if Mulligrubs1’s mother was using a cat as a metaphor for her mind. Why? Because it resembles what Martin Slevin, another Alzheimer’s carer, described in his own  book. His mother talked to and obsessed over an imaginary girl in the radiator. Towards the end of the book, he realizes that his mother is the little girl in the radiator, trapped, alone, and scared. Once he makes this connection and talks to his mother’s obsession goes away.


In the video, Mulligrubs1’s mother describes a cat:

  • The cat is often lost and outside. Maybe she feels her mind is lost and wandering?
  • The cat is described as wet. Cats don’t like being wet, so this means the cat is unhappy and uncomfortable.
  • Mulligrubs1′ mother always wants to lock the cat in her room. By bringing the cat/her mind in her room, maybe she would feel safer, and her mind wouldn’t wander.

In their conversations, Mulligrubs1 is constantly reassuring the mother about the 5 real cats, but Mulligrubs1’s mother constantly refers to a cat that isn’t there. Maybe some Alzheimer’s patients create a metaphor for how they feel and if we can enter their reality, we can relate to how they feel. And maybe, just maybe, knowing that someone else understands can help our loved ones?

I imagine a possible conversation between Mulligrubs1 and her mother:

Mulligrubs1: Please sit down. Tell me about the cat. I would like to help you.

Mulligrubs1’s mother: <Describes the cat as small, lost, outside, and wanting to come back in.>

Mulligrubs1: That sounds scary. The cat must be very scared. <hugs her mother> Do you feel like that cat?

I wonder what would have been her mother’s response. If it would have helped her to know that someone understood how she felt. Would she remember this or forget and return to her cat obsession? (For Martin, once he made the connection and told his mother he understood, his mother’s obsession went away.)

Of course, it’s easy to make this suggestion from my armchair. Mulligrubs1’s patience and love is admirable (watch the video to see I mean); I hope I can do the same.

Disclaimer: These are just my ponderings…