Helping a Parent After Brain Surgery Damaged Memory and Vision

My mother has brain cancer and the doctors removed the first tumor which damaged her short term memory, eyesight, and her brain does not acknowledge the right side of her body. She used to make doilies, but gets confused. All she does now is sit and smoke. Books do not work because she forgets what she just read. Mom is only 64 and has always been active. How can I help her? She gets tired quickly.

By Theresa from Daingerfield. TX

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September 16, 20100 found this helpful

Make sure she gets regular physical therapy (you can help with that) by asking the doctors and physical therapist what you can personally do to help her from day to day in any way possible to give her comfort and keep her busy. My first thought is to maybe play card games with her even if she doesn't remember the rules. Let her come up with her own rules. :-) Or take her to the park and watch the birds or a sunset or sunrise. Just talk to her and tell stories.

I also suggest you do not allow her to smoke unless you are right there with her because that's especially dangerous since she's not thinking clearly. In my humble opinion this is not the time to completely deprive her of her smokes but you need to make sure she doesn't see them or lighters or matches (seeing them is a reminder she likes them) unless she asks to be able to have a smoke. Since her memory is not as it used to be she might not even remember she likes to smoke and will simply be physically agitated for three or four days from the nicotine withdrawal.

I wish you and your mom and your family the best and let us know what you find that is helpful for you because it could be helpful to others here at ThriftyFun in the future.

God Bless!

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September 16, 20100 found this helpful

Was she in a nursing home for rehabilitation? She needs Occupational Therapy also. Please contact your local health dept. to see how you might be able to get her both Physical and occupational therapy. There may also be a program for alzheimer patients available for daycare, they may bend the rules and allow her to come for a few hours a day. They play games and basically occupy elderly people with memory problems. Good luck.

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September 16, 20100 found this helpful

The brain is a facinating and remarkable thing. I once read an article about a little girl who had violent seizures. In the end, surgeons recommended the removal of half of her brain as that was the only way to make the seizures stop. Guess what? The one side learned to do all the functions of both sides! So I want you to realize that your mother can be rehabilitated to be like she was before the surgery. But its hard work.

I am almost 65 yrs old. I understand about your mother's age. But she is not old! She has another 40 yrs to live, if she quits smoking and takes care of herself. (By the way, the smoking may have caused the malignancy in her brain, I think)

My closest friend is 86 yr old. She has had 3 major strokes and several minor ones. She is the same person she always was. She forced herself to do things her therapists asked her to do. I must say she now walks with a walker, but her knees are worn out. lol. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with her head. She phones me to have conversations. People who live alone get so they can't maintain a conversation.

Your mother needs physical and occupational therapy. In my honest opinion. I agree that engaging her in conversation is a start. That will involve one part of her brain. Physical movement exercises the brain as well. So be sure she moves around some each day. Don't allow her to just sit and smoke all the time.

You have your work cut out for you, my friend. But I have lots of hope that with proper care your mother will go back to being herself within one year.

I care.

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September 16, 20100 found this helpful

First, I'm so sorry about what it happening to your mom, and to everyone who loves her. This is a difficult, frightening time for all of you & I wish you all the best & hope things go well in treatment & recovery. Second, I apologize, but this note seems that it is going to be quite long. :D

Your mom could be dealing with many issues here. You said she has brain cancer, does that mean she still has it & is receiving treatment? That could be causing mental & physical problems. She could also be suffering from depression for obvious reasons (the cancer, what has happened to her brain & body, the loss of abilities), but also because of a chemical imbalance caused by what she is going through. She may need an antidepressant for awhile to get things back on track, talk to her doctors about this possibility.

As for the effects caused by the surgery-your mom needs rehabilitative & physical therapy to re-wire her brain. It was discovered several years ago that if someone who has had some sort of brain trauma gets the treatment they need right away, it's possible to get other parts of the brain to take over the functions of the parts that were damaged or removed. If your doctors don't know anything about this & can't or won't help you, a neurologist could help, but I think it would be an even better idea to get in touch with a support group for people with brain injuries, they can give you some valuable insight & suggestions. Of course, this also depends on what your mom's condition & prognosis is too.

Try to encourage your mom to do things like crossword puzzles & word search puzzles, even if she has to start out with children's puzzles. They are an enormous help in getting the brain to start working again. She may only be able to do just a part of a child's puzzle at 1st, but might progress up to a full puzzle & then adult puzzles. If you think she'd use it, the Nintendo DS has some great "brain games' designed to exercise your brain, you can find used games & players on ebay pretty cheap. Reassure your mom that she is still recovering & that some of these processes will slowly begin to come back as her brain heals, that she will have times of frustration, fear & anger, but that you love her & will help her get through this.

When my mom was 46, she had a serious brain injury. The doctor's didn't realize how bad it was, so didn't do much about it until it was too late. At that time they didn't know you could re-wire the brain either,they thought once you lost it,it was gone. She was a smart, strong, capable,self-confident woman who could figure out how to do anything. She lost some of her short term memory, some of her long-term memory(we call them her 'black holes'), her sense of smell & taste, her ability to read,crochet, figure things out,etc. She lost control that 'thing' that controls anger & patience,so she would become angry & frustrated with people * things then have tantrums like a 2 yr old! She developed an extreme social phobia & anxiety & she could not deal at all with anything that surprised her (if someone showed up at her door to visit,she fell apart or if things didn't go according to plans,she couldn't function). For months I had to take care of her, drive her places, cook for her, as she came back bit by bit.

A neurologist told to do the crossword puzzles to exercise her brain,she could barely do a child 's puzzle at 1st when she used to be an expert. That was 26 yrs ago. She slowly gained back a lot of what she lost. She is still smart, talented & self-reliant, but she is not and will never be the woman she was before. She still has an extreme social anxiety order, can't do things like read directions to put something together & figure it out, she has ADHD now & can't focus on something for long periods of time, gets frustrated easily,etc. Sometimes she can sit down & crochet or read, & understand & enjoy it, but not for long. Then sometimes it's like trying to read a foreign language for her & she absolutely can't figure it out. She still has 'black holes', where she will meet someone she knew years ago & doesn't know who they are or we will mention something that happened,but she doesn't remember. Sometimes all of a sudden, one of those memories comes back out of the blue. Sometimes her short term memory is amazing,but sometimes she can't remember something no matter how many times we tell her, but I'm getting to be the same way,so maybe it's just age, LOL!

It took my mom many years to even want to read anymore,she thought it was a waste of time since she wouldn't remember it anyway. Then I pointed out that if she reads it & enjoys it, but forgets it, she can read it & enjoy it all over again!!! Which really does make me jealous, cause she has read her favorite books 2-3 several times over the years & enjoyed them each time because she doesn't remember all or most of them! I'm jealous! She will sometimes sit & crochet when she's in the mood, but doesn't like anything complicated or long, she doesn't have the patience anymore. And she has to be in the mood for reading or crochet,she will go months or years without wanting to or being frustrated because she can't, then she'll be on a roll where she can't stop!

I had to mourn the loss of my first mother, I lost her when she had the brain injury & sometimes I miss her. I had to get to know my new mother & realize she has her own personality, her good traits,bad traits & foibles. She is the 1st person I go to when I need to talk, the person who's opinion I trust & value the most. But sometimes I have to be her mother & caretaker, it's just a role I had to take on a lot sooner than I had to. I had to teach her that while she is not the same person she used to be, she is still a wonderful, vibrant, valuable human being. And while she may not have the same abilities & talents she used to have, she has developed new ones that are just as wonderful (or humorous). She has been & always will be, my very best friend.

Your mom may re-learn & get back most of what she has lost, especially if she gets the help she needs. Her body & mind need to recover from the trauma she has been through , it will take time. If there are interests or abilities she never fully recovers, help her learn new ones to give her joy & self confidence. If there are personality changes that don't go away, please don't spend your time mourning the loss of that person she was & trying to get her back. It doesn't work & causes a lot of anger & frustration for everyone! Instead, meet her & get to know her as who she is now. Help her get to know herself again & learn to like who she is. Cherish the memories you have, make new memories to cherish later, love her.

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September 16, 20100 found this helpful

Your mom needs therapy: occupational, physical, and speech therapy. Get her as much as possible as soon as possible. The brain will respond better if therapy is started ASAP. If cost is an issue, call local colleges to see if they teach any of the programs. If they do, chances are that the instructors guide graduate students through the therapy process at very reduced rates, sometimes for free. They will also instruct you on how to continue lessons at home. Don't overlook speech-language therapy; they often work will patients who have had brain injuries, stroke victims, etc. The more therapy your mom gets, the quicker her brain will start rewiring paths and the sooner she will be able to live a more normal life. God bless.

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September 16, 20100 found this helpful

You might want to ask her doctor if she's eligible for visits from hospice in your area; they can help her ( and you) immensely with both the physical and emotional issues you're facing.

Hugs and prayers from here.

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