Essential tremor and how deep brain stimulation restores quality of life

A retired teacher's personal story

I had been dealing with some form of essential tremor (ET) for 10 to 15 years. It had become increasingly worse, to the extent that I had very little, if any, fine motor control and progressively compromised gross motor skills.

Elizabeth Scheffler's

Elizabeth Scheffler’s essential tremor has been treated successfully with deep brain stimulation surgery.

The tremor was bilateral (in both hands). I also had a head and voice tremor. It was most embarrassing because I couldn’t control it. Strangers remarked on it frequently and TSA at the airport was quite insistent that I needed a wheelchair. This led me to withdraw and limit social contacts.

It was not possible to carry a cup of coffee without spilling, eat a sandwich without shaking it apart or feed my then-infant grandson. Eventually, it became very difficult to cope with any daily tasks such as cooking (try flipping a pancake), buttoning clothes or putting on earrings or make-up. It was especially frustrating in this age of high-tech electronics with computers and cell phones. I had to give up most of the things I enjoyed like pottery, calligraphy and photography.

Medications (I tried three or four) made little or no impact on the tremors. One neurologist in Colorado was even treating me for Parkinson’s (which it turns out I do not have).  Continue reading

Memory Games for a Healthy Brain

We’ve all seen the ads for computer programs, memory games and apps that promise to help preserve our memory and other cognitive abilities. The problem with many commercial programs and apps is that you have to pay a monthly fee for something you may get tired of or that may not be enjoyable.Woman playing a memory game

The good news is that you don’t have to pay money to keep your brain active. You can find free brain games and puzzles on your smartphone, tablet or computer. There are also free apps and programs that help us eat right and move more, which further contribute to a healthy brain.

Brain games

Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and scrabble are old favorites that challenge our brain. Here are a few other apps and websites to check out:  Continue reading

The ABCs of Stroke

Stroke Health Issue CrosswordStroke is now the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. Because stroke is so prevalent, we all need to know about this harmful disease. We asked stroke neurologist Eric E. Adelman, M.D., to tell us more.

What are the warning signs of stroke?

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the signs of stroke. When you spot the signs, you’ll know you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F.A.S.T. stands for:

  • Face. Does the face look uneven?
  • Arm. Does one arm drift down?
  • Speech. Does the person’s speech sound strange?
  • Time. It’s time to call 9-1-1.

Why is it so important to get help quickly?

The time that passes between the first onset of symptoms and the administration of clot-dissolving treatment called tPA can make a difference in how well a person’s brain, arms, legs, speech or thinking ability recover. TPA stands for tissue plasminogen activator.

What exactly is stroke? Continue reading

Parkinson’s and Dance: New Partners

Herschel and Karen Ele

Karen and Herschel Ele

There’s a dance revolution going on—for people with Parkinson’s and their partners. And the U-M Turner Senior Wellness Program is right in step. Here is one caregiver’s story about how Turner’s Movement & Dance Class changed his life.

My wife Karen and I have participated in many support groups for Parkinson’s Disease (PD). I also belong to a support group for caregivers of patients with a dementia diagnosis. For us, the Parkinson’s Movement & Dance Class is the best of all of them.

A better relationship

Clearly, something very positive happened while taking the class.

Karen Ele (in purple jacket) at Turner's Parkinson's Movement and Dance Class

Karen Ele (in rear in purple jacket) at Turner’s Parkinson’s Movement & Dance Class

Participating in the class has contributed to a better relationship between us. Karen has looked forward to the classes each week, and although she finds them challenging, it gives her something to be engaged in.

As a care partner, I have gradually felt more and more at home, even though at first dance was outside my comfort zone. I have felt happier, healthier, more outgoing and more relaxed as a result of the class.  Continue reading

7 Tips For Proper Use of Your CPAP Machine

CPAP machineMore than 28 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is usually treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. That means there are a lot of CPAP machines out there. As with any machine, there can be problems. Here are a few tips to make sure that you and your CPAP machine get along well.

  1. Leaking mask

If the CPAP mask begins to leak during the night, pull the mask gently forward to allow the mask cushion to reset, and then allow the mask to settle on your face.

  1. Dry, stuffy nose

If you are experiencing a stuffy nose:

  • Increase the heat setting on your CPAP heated humidifier.
  • Use saline nasal spray or mist before going to bed to help moisten nasal passages.
  • Contact your physician if nasal dryness or stuffiness persists.

Continue reading

5 Ways to Protect Your Memory

Many middle-aged adults are concerned about developing memory loss later in life. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent memory loss, researchers are finding out more and more about how the brain works and how to keep it healthy. Here are five important steps you can take to maintain a healthy brain:

It's important to interact with others.

People are good for our brain.

  1. Eat right

Choose vegetables, fish, eggs, legumes (lentils, beans), nuts, olive oil and fruits. Limit red meat, alcohol and sugar. Avoid processed and packaged food as much as possible. A healthful diet will also reduce the risk for diabetes, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Exercise

We can’t stress enough the importance of all types of exercise. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start by walking. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Talk with your doctor before you pursue any formal exercise program.  Continue reading