Several years ago, my dad took my mom to a hospital in Boston to have repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on her brain. From what he said, there were only a few places conducting this treatment around the world. She wore a cap on her head and, as she did different activities on a tablet, the technicians would use magnetic fields to send small electrical impulses to different parts of her brain.
The treatment seemed to be a success. Apparently, it is like bringing the person with Alzheimer’s disease back to where they were about three years prior, in terms of memory and cognition. It can only take place within certain stages of the disease and it does have a limit on what it can do. After my dad brought her back for a second treatment, it was determined that it did not achieve much success.
This is one of those things which I wished I had asked my dad more questions about. I really am not sure why the second treatment did not work as well. I do not really know what the treatment did, exactly. However, I do wonder if there have been studies that followed people who received this treatment.
I find myself wondering if my mom is experiencing some negatives of the treatment now. For instance, her short-term memory is gone, and she is going back into her childhood, so the disease is progressing, but there is part of her brain that is still very much aware. She is very aware that she has been put in a place where she doesn’t want to be. She still uses very large vocabulary that keeps fooling the staff. After conversations with her myself, sometimes, I find myself thinking, yes, she should be in an apartment and traveling and doing all the things she wants to do. And then, I am brought back to the reality of the situation. She cannot go five miles in the car without getting agitated. She does not know she takes medication. She doesn’t know what took place five minutes prior to the moment.
So, she still has ideas about what she would like to be doing and understanding of what her life was before, but she doesn’t understand her limitations that are keeping her from living the way she wants to be living. I am not sure if this is very different from other people with Alzheimer’s, but I do know everywhere that she has been, the staff have let us know that she is very different from other people that have been in their care. Could it be the brain stimulation? If it is the case that it offers a downside further down the road for the person, would they or their caregivers still think it worth it to get three more years on the front end?
I guess with many treatments there are downsides. I know that my parents were able to keep traveling for a while and enjoying life, so it was probably worth having it done. We may be living the downside right now and just have to accept that these consequences were worth it!
Here is a link to an article my dad had sent us in 2017 about rTMS.