After treatment - Mild Cognitive Impairment

Neet66Neet66 Posts: 5

My mum (72) was treated for Breast Cancer in 2017, she had quite a traumatic time. She suffered badly with depression which she has antidepressants for but she refuses to go and see someone. But since the treatment she has been suffering from Short Term Memory Loss. My mum attended a Memory Clinic where they gave her a brain scan because we were worried that she had the start of dementia. The results were that she is suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment. Since then my parents have moved in with myself and my family with the idea that we could help my dad plus the fact that they had no one near them where they were living. The doctors say it is to do with the Chemo and treatment but I do wonder whether it has something to do with her depression and the trauma of the treatment that she went through as well. My dad took over all the household jobs and cooking whilst mum was having her treatment but my mum is gradually getting back to doing things but you do have to remind her. This is tricky as my dad has no patience and so he tends to do everything still. Unfortunately my mum is still not using her brain properly and does tend to spend quite a bit of time sitting around doing nothing. I take my mum to several clubs which she really enjoys and they seem to be helping her with her social skills plus her mood. I hate to say this but at times it is like teaching a toddler to do things, she has a child like way with her. Is there anyone out there who has had any experience of this? Where can we go for help? The doctor suggested the Alzheimer Society which have been very helpful but obviously a lot of what they suggest is for someone with dementia. But I find it awkward trying to encourage my dad on what could help mum, he seems to happy with the way things are.

Best Answer

  • LEGO2019LEGO2019 Posts: 16
    Accepted Answer

    Hi - I had breast cancer in 2005 with surgery followed by 6 months chemotherapy. I was 52 and returned to work as an accountant but found my work standard was very poor, I was making mistakes and forgetting deadlines etc. I struggled on for a while and eventually was told it was cognitive impairment but wasn’t really offered any help, so I had the impression my brain was damaged but this was not reversible. Eventually I decided to take early retirement. However, I discovered some years later that it is in fact repairable and it requires you to do some ‘brain training’ every day - 10 mins twice a day would be enough if you’re consistent - there are some memory games and puzzle books that stimulate the part of the brain that has been damaged - but like any muscle in the body, if you don’t use it you lose it. I’m now 66 and am glad to say my brain made a full recovery, unfortunately I now have bowel cancer and am having chemotherapy again, but this time I’m doing my brain exercises every day as well as my physical activities to try to minimize the damage this time. So far so good! If you play card games as a family, it’s a really great way to stimulate the brain as you learn new games and must concentrate, but everyone is having fun at the same time. I might just be a poker expert by the end of my treatment! Best of luck to you, your Mam and all the family 💕

Answers

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 339 ✭✭✭
    edited March 16

    @Neet66

    Hi and welcome to our friendly community.

    First of all, how lovely of you to look after your Mum and Dad in their time of need.

    I have not had chemo but I am aware that it can affect memory and I am sure that other community members will post and tell you of their own experiences in this respect.

    I am on ADT hormone therapy which is linked to cognitive issues and depression. My doctor actually diagnosed me with depression a year ago and advised me to go to MacMillan Cancer Support who provided me with a counsellor and lots of love and understanding.  They are a wonderful organisation and if you have one in your area, I strongly suggest that you take your Mum along for a chat and a cuppa. Taking that opportunity has turned my life around and it could do the same for your Mum.

    Welcome to our friendly Community. There are a lot of lovely people here who love to chat and support one another.

    Rob x

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 339 ✭✭✭
    edited March 16

    @Neet66

    PS

    Have a look at ‘What’s on your Mind Today’ under the heading ‘Life and Living after Cancer’. You may find some of the posts relevant x

  • MinksyMinksy Posts: 8

    Sorry to here about your mum, i am 70 and had chemo but did not have anything like this.

    I do make myself keep busy. Cancerunite run a gym that i go to twice a week, as was told excercise is good and you meet lots of people in the same situation , they do pilates, yoga, dance keep fit and excercise.

    I also go to craft classes.

    Mcmillan should know if there is anything like this near you.


    Best wishes

  • Rhubarb7Rhubarb7 Posts: 1

    Hi

    I am 66 and I know exactly how she feels. I kept busy during chemo and radiation. Played a lot of bridge and even won prizes ... but doing everyday things my brain seemed to be fried! I often found it difficult to follow a conversation. I never had great short-term memory but I seem to have none now. I have spent ages looking for earrings that I had put on 30 secs earlier. I seem to be constantly walking from bedroom to kitchen in the morning picking up things I forgot. You have no idea how terrifying it is. I thought I was losing my mind. I have learned not to let it frighten me anymore and not to hide it either. My husband has also learnt not to be frightened and we joke about it. My sons laugh at it too.

    Get your mum to write out lists for shopping and to -do lists. Try not to do too much for her. Above all I think you need to hide the fear from her. I found attending yoga and tai-chi classes at Cancer Care West was a great help.

    Good luck to your mum

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 339 ✭✭✭

    @Minksy

    Hi

    It is good to hear that Cancerunite offer so many fun things to do. Having benefitted so much from the facilities offered by MacMillan at my time of need, I now work as a volunteer with them and find it very rewarding. My wife is a volunteer at Hospice. It is not just an end of life facility. They have a day centre and do crafts, quizzes, yoga and mindfulness sessions as well as weekly discussion groups around coping with cancer and anxiety issues.

    @LEGO2019

    I think that your decision to do ‘brain training’ every day is fantastic. On a slightly different but comparable theme, my specialist told me that the ADT hormone treatment I am on would cause me to lose muscle and gain weight and that the process was inevitable. I decided to challenge that view and changed my diet, gave up alcohol (well, sort of). I take long walks and use exercise bands and I am now actually fitter than I was before cancer.

    I am so sorry to hear that you are fighting cancer again. All the best with your treatment and enjoy the poker.

    @Rhubarb7

    The hormone treatment I am on is known to cause cognitive issues and your story is familiar to me. I forget things and my concentration span is a joke. More annoyingly I tend to get anxious when there are a lot of people around, such as in a supermarket, or worse, the airport. MacMillan are supporting a course on mindfulness and I have been to two sessions so far. Not sure that I have got the hang of it yet, but I will persist and see where it leads me. I think your decision to accept your situation without fear and with a lighthearted approach is a great idea.

    I am really pleased that I found this Community. It is good to know that I am not alone in my thoughts and fears and that I can say what’s on my mind and not be judged. It is lovely and helpful to hear about people’s experiences around cancer and how they deal with them.

    Rob x

  • Neet66Neet66 Posts: 5

    Hi @LEGO2019

    What sort of brain training do you do?

    I do have to remind mum to do crosswords etc, but unfortunately she seems happy enough to just sit and do nothing. My dad doesn't remind her or encourage her to do things, so very frustrating.

    X

  • LEGO2019LEGO2019 Posts: 16

    Hi@Neet66

    i do some online - some days I do the kids ones if I’m tired as they still provide stimulation but are less taxing. If your Mam doesn’t use the internet you can buy brain training books or mixed puzzle books - crosswords and soduko are too much of the same and only work on one area so a mixture is best - the puzzle books have a variety of challenges and a little mix every day is good. There are new books now for people with early signs of dementia, but they are also recommended to actually prevent dementia in the first place. The type of training in these books is ideal for chemo dog/cognitive impairment and can sharpen your brain again. One really great tip is to learn something new - a new language, a musical instrument etc - did your Mam ever play an instrument that she hasn’t done for a long time? She could take it up again. It dancing - it actually takes an awful lot of concentration to learn the steps so she would have to focus. I love doing puzzles so it works for me, so if you could find something your Mam loves it would be much easier for her to commit and to enjoy at the same time. Ask your Dad to help you find something she loves - maybe he could even go to dance classes with her?

  • LEGO2019LEGO2019 Posts: 16

    Hi @Neet66

    Forgot to ask - are there any young grandchildren around? The last time I had cancer I had no grandchildren - now I have 6! That’s actually the most important difference this time - I have to keep pretending I’m better, because they wouldn’t be able to understand the ups and downs of chemo. My brain is put to the test every day in just playing with them or helping with their homework - and the maths are a killer, they’ve changed the way they do arithmetic, so I’ve no choice but to study it myself, along with all the other subjects. So hopefully there are enough young people around to help pull her through - their energy and enthusiasm for life is contagious - even if I’m flat on my back the moment they’ve gone out the door. But so worth it. If she doesn’t have young grandchildren maybe you could adopt a couple - there are lots of young families who have moved here from different parts of the world, but the kiddies have no grandparents around, so could be a win-win all round! Don’t forget to take care of yourself too 💕

  • Neet66Neet66 Posts: 5

    Hi @LEGO2019

    Yes I have 3, twins 21 and an 18 year. They try but they have their own lives either busy working or college, but mum absolutely adores them and they totally light up her life.

    I meant to say that my mum's personality has changed as well, she has no go in her, no interest in anything. If it weren't for me taking her to several clubs she would be happy to just sit doing nothing. Before her treatment she was knitting squares with the intention of obviously making a blanket. I found the squares the other day and said, 'look mum you could get on with your blanket now' and her response was, 'I can't be arsed'. Mum has lost the ability to entertain herself, we have to keep reminding her to do crosswords or listen to the Archers, so it will be the same with the brain training and dad never reminds her, so quite a battle.

    X

  • LEGO2019LEGO2019 Posts: 16

    Hi @Neet66

    It sounds much more like depression with your Mum - this is so common when treatment ends, you feel abandoned and worried that it will come back, and you’re drained from the treatment itself and that takes a long time to recover from. My grandchildren are much younger - age 3 to 11, so no messing with them, when they want you to play they don’t take no for an answer! That takes the decision out of my hands which is great because more often than not, if it wasn’t for them, I’d probably stay in bed all day when I don’t have any appointments. I was younger last time so still had a lot to live for - there is a big difference when you’re older because you don’t have the same sense of purpose, you’re depending on someone needing you, otherwise you just don’t feel useful and wonder if it’s worth the bother - that’s where the grandchildren could help - if they could each give her maybe an hour in alternate days and let her know they need to talk to her, that they value her advice, because often that’s all we can offer when your body is exhausted and damaged. Just to feel needed would make all the difference to her. So if everyone starts saying ‘can you help me with this ..... or ‘can you show me how to make your scrumptious apple pie ....’ and lots of other things - Mums always have great recipes that they got from their Mums - maybe one of the grandchildren would actually like to learn how to cook or bake and could ask your Mum to give them lessons -even just one a week would be a start, then your Mum could look forward to the sessions and working out which recipe she’s going to use etc, maybe they could cook dinner once a week for everyone else, so if she’s too tired, all she has to do is supervise! Cooking will use enough of her brain power to keep it exercised, and in a much more useful way! Best of luck, I’ll be thinking of you. Val x

  • Neet66Neet66 Posts: 5

    Hi @LEGO2019

    I tried buying a Brian Training book for mum but there were so many to choose from and was not sure what one to go for. So I've downloaded an app online but it seems quite hard, could you please let me know which one you use?

    Thanks. x

  • LEGO2019LEGO2019 Posts: 16

    Hi @Neet66

    I have got so many books I’m trying to think where to start! Serious books include ‘The NLP Brain Builder’ - very good, but you have to commit to it, it takes time and effort to make positive changes. Another is ‘100 Days to a New Brain’, along the same lines. Lighter training can be found in random puzzle books - the one I’m using now is ‘Great Book of Brain-Training Puzzles’ - this includes a variety of different types of puzzles that stimulate different parts of your brain. I try to do one or two puzzles every day (without looking up the answers for clues!) then for memory, I have bought a few memory games that I play with the grandchildren - maybe someone could play this game with her for just a few minutes every day. If you haven’t got a game you can make one up at home - e.g. I put 10 items on a tray, give them 5 minutes to study them, then cover them with a cloth and ask them to name the 10 items. There’s loads of variations of this game, eg. you could use a list of names, places, dates etc. and do the same test. Then you can measure her progress by the numbers she is getting right. So plenty there to choose from - if you can enlist some help for just a few minutes every day - board games are also very good - chess in particular, or even monopoly, lots of family versions to choose from. Solitaire is one she can do herself. Best of luck, and if I can help in any other way please post again. Take care 💕

  • LEGO2019LEGO2019 Posts: 16

    Ps @Neet66

    Forgot to mention - I get all my books from the library, they have a huge selection, so I only buy the puzzle books. I picked up a nice little one today - it’s aimed at young people with mental health issues but most of the principles can be applied to more mature people who have cognitive impairment. It’s an easy read and it’s called ‘Mind your Head’ by Juno Dawson. Val

  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 529 ✭✭✭✭

    @LEGO2019

    Hi, I just wanted to say how much I love reading your posts and find them so very helpful, thank you so much! It is invaluable, and so encouraging for others too.

    You have reminded me to get my brain-training out, I think the effects of chemotherapy are so long lasting we forget that some of the difficulties we have post treatment are attributable to the chemo.

    You have so many great ideas, how are you doing with your treatment for the bowel cancer?

    @Neet66

    I am so sorry that things with your mum are not moving forward very well. From reading your msgs, it does sound like the depression may be deeper than before. It is very common after treatment to become depressed, lethargic, and have no 'zest' for life. The emotional impact of cancer goes a lot deeper than we sometimes realise and can completely knock us off kilter. Do you think contacting Macmillan's will help, perhaps they could provide some support for you mum and dad too? Or even if you were to contact them, they may be able to advise you?

    Thinking of you,

    Lou x

  • LEGO2019LEGO2019 Posts: 16

    @Sunshinedaff

    Hi - thank you so much for the lovely compliment, it’s very much appreciated. I find helping someone else boosts my feel good factor more than anything I can do for myself.

    My treatment is proving really tough this time - first my white cells were so low after the first treatment that the second was deferred for another 2 weeks, then last week my red cells were too low so instead of chemo I had a transfusion, but I’m happy to say it worked and I’m also relieved to have had an extra week to recover as I still had lots of side effects but thankfully they all went in the week following the transfusion - so success all round! That’s No. 6 done so now only 4 to go. In case there are any donors in our group I’d like to say how grateful I am that someone took the time to go and donate so a really big thank you to all the donors out there - you are super heroes!

    Just so I don’t put anyone off chemo I just wanted to say again that it’s my second time to have cancer and my second time to have chemo and apparently that is why I am having more difficulty than usual, but I’m 100% sure that chemo is necessary so I’ll plough on - for anyone starting treatment, once you get past the half-way ‘hump’ the psychological effect is magic - I’m sure it will carry me through to the end, despite physical problems. My own treatments are, meditation, yoga, walking on the beach and breathing in the fresh sea air, and an occasional massage, reflexology etc.

    Actually tried a ‘dry flotation bed in a spa a couple of weeks ago - it was pure bliss. Apparently 30 mins on it is equivalent to 3 hours deep sleep - don’t know how true that is, but it was the most enjoyable treatment I ever had - a bit expensive at €40 for 30 mins so it’s going to have to be a special treat when the need arises, but so worth it. Love and hugs to all 💕

    Val

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