By Kwai Lee
After being the primary care doctor for Anne and Tim for 11 years, it was evident to all that Anne’s cognitive function was deteriorating. Referrals were made to a geriatrician and Anne was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s dementia, the most common form of dementia.
That was three years ago and regular contact was established to assist Anne and Tim. Anne undertook a yearly MMSE (mini-mental state examination) and had regular check-ups with her kind geriatrician every six months.
Her MMSE had deteriorated from 24/30 at the time of diagnosis to 20/30 in the last three years and everyone noted that her vibrant personality was fading. She was increasingly frail, confused, and withdrawn. This was the same woman who would come in with her leather bike jacket and proudly show pictures of her younger self riding a souped-up motorbike. “The louder the rev, the better!” That was her motto.
It was hard to connect the bike-loving, large-living Anne with the thin, quiet Anne who would often disengage and gaze off into the distance in the middle of conversations.
Just prior to her next review, however, Anne was surprisingly present during our consultation and mentioned how frustrated she was at her memory loss and her anxiety of the upcoming MMSE. I offered EFT and she took up the offer eagerly.
She had three 20-minute sessions of tapping, focusing primarily on her frustration and anger at having this terrible condition, her anxiety on having another MMSE, and her guilt that she was a burden to her loving husband, Tim. Her sessions were short due to her memory issues and, at times, she just tapped in silence, following the points shown to her.
She mentioned that she felt better after the third session and was ready to have her MMSE.
Just a quick note about MMSE, which is one of the tests that assist in assessing memory loss. The patient is interviewed and questions are asked. A score out of 30 is given. A score of 25 and over is considered normal. Those conducting this test are meant to do it with a neutral tone and body language so as not give “clues.” Generally, at least two to three tests are conducted so a consistent result is validated. Most patients are very nervous and intimidated by the test.
Anne’s score after EFT was 22/30. An increase of 2 is what is expected from starting any of the Alzheimer’s medication. It sometimes means the difference between being able to be cared for at home and having to be in a nursing home.
Her MMSE was tested no less than four times by various practitioners/nurses over a six-week period and it stayed 22/30.
Furthermore, Tim was quick to state that Anne was calmer, happier, and more present. He was so excited to have glimpses of his Anne back. Her next review is in five months and it will be interesting to see what her MMSE will be.
More people are terrified of dementia than they are of death. The thought of losing one’s cognitive function and, in turn, one’s personality, self, and dignity is horrifying to most. Unfortunately, with the aging population in the developed world, the incidence of Alzheimer’s dementia is increasing.
Not uncommonly, diagnosis is delayed by denial. The diagnosis is devastating to the patient and their families who generally will bear the burden of looking after their loved one.
The fear and despair that is accompanied by the disease must be overwhelming. There are so many emotions that come into play through the progression of the disease–guilt, anxiety, anger, resentment, depression, helplessness.
With regards to Anne, I am hesitant to say EFT improved her Alzheimer’s dementia (although if EFT was found to do that, it would be wonderful); however, I think EFT was very helpful dealing with her negative emotional state.
Cognitive thinking is impaired when one is in a negative emotional state and I suspect that is why Anne’s MMSE improved.
More important, Anne and her family noted an improved quality of life.
There is currently no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s. Medication can sometimes slow the progression, but its success is guarded.
There is progressive deterioration that is simply cruel for patients and their loved ones. Perhaps there is a role for EFT in helping patients and families achieve a little bit of peace and acceptance when dealing with this. It is such an easy tool and if there is alleviation of their distress, surely it is worth a try.
I remember one of my wise mentors telling me: “You are not going to cure a lot of things, but if your patients walks out your door feeling better, you have done your job.”