Brain Stimulation

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?

Never too cold for ice cream! Enjoying life on a trip to Disney World .

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.


Third Time, a Charm??

We recently moved my mom into her third “home” since my father passed away last January. We didn’t really know what to do with her as my father had been taking care of her very much on his own. She came to us with her suitcase (as they had been on a trip) containing her medications and some clothes. My father left pretty detailed instructions about where to find everything we might need to deal with their finances, but my mom came with no instructions. We had not really heard her speak much in more than a year and most of the time we visited, she was sleeping.

So, feeling overwhelmed by her gazillion (as my daughter would say) different medications and supplements, we found a place as quickly as we could.

Home #1: I thought of it as a cruise ship that didn’t move. Beautiful, nice pool, excellent dining, workout room, and on-site hair dresser. They had outings to various places and the activities staff, like a cruise ship, were energetic and engaging. My mom came out of her shell and enjoyed herself there, making friends and finding opportunities to show off her dancing skills.

Trouble arose, however, in the form of the independent living population. When mom saw their apartments, she wondered why she didn’t have a kitchen or washing machine or balcony. She was also very convincing in her conversations and people thought what she was saying was absolutely true. I received a call one day from a realtor in Florida that was given my number by a resident because my mom wanted to sell her house in Florida. That would have been great, but my mom had no house in Florida!

The assisted living residents were good company for her, often providing comic relief. Dinner time was always fun when the food came and no one remembered ordering what they did and the food shuffled around the table. One lady told a story of saying how she loved her V8, only her V8 meant 8 ounces of vodka!

Ultimately, between my mom’s lack of understanding of why she wasn’t in independent living and her ability to go outside the facility and walk around (even in the dark) without anyone knowing, led us to find another place.

Home #2: So, after about 7 months, we moved our mom to a smaller facility that had assisted living and a memory care area that was open to the whole facility. We were assured that she could be here for the long haul. It was a secure facility and they were well trained to work with people with dementia. From very early on, we saw that this was not the case. Interactions with my mom left her agitated and she quickly built a distrust for the staff there. This agitation grew and, in the end, she forced herself out of the building and became so verbally aggressive that they gave her very strong medication that she will probably never recover from.

Home #3: She is now, since two weeks ago, in a place that is only memory care. It is a nice size, has a great ratio of staff to residents, nice walking paths and educated staff.

Each move has taken its toll and we’ve lost more of her each time, but she is in a safe place and hopefully she will find some sort of contentment.