Sitting arm in arm on the red velvet sofa in their living room, Syd and Mary Perlmutter look as happy and in love as the day they were married 55 years ago. Mary kisses Syd on the cheek and the forehead and tells him how much she loves him. “He’s such a lovely man,” she says as she puts her head on his shoulder.
Mornings are good for Mary, but by the afternoon she starts getting restless and can’t stay still. It’s one of the common effects of Alzheimer’s disease and Syd has learned that taking her for a drive in the car, even for 15 minutes, usually calms her down.
Since Mary was diagnosed in 1997 at the age of 68 by Baycrest behavioural neurologist Dr. Morris Freedman, Syd, who is 80, has had to learn a lot about Alzheimer’s and how to care for his wife. And he says Baycrest has been there to help him along the way.
They now attend the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic, part of the new Brain Health Centre Clinics at Baycrest, which provides diagnosis, treatment and on-going management for people with memory disorders, and offers education and support to family members and referrals to Baycrest and other community resources.
“I always feel like we’re getting the very best and the latest information about drug therapy and treatment for Alzheimer’s,” says Syd. “There’s no question in my mind that the help Mary has received here has delayed the progress of the disease.”
Syd knows that he can call the clinic whenever he has a concern. Nurse clinician Mindy Halper is his first contact and offers strategies for issues that arise. An occupational therapist made a home visit when he was worried about Mary’s restlessness and arranged for home care to provide him with some respite. He also saw a social worker for support and to plan for the future. And he brings Mary to see Dr. Freedman every three to four months to monitor her condition and adjust her medications. “I feel that if I need any help, it’s available right away,” he says.
The Memory Clinic is one of the three out-patient clinics that comprise the Brain Health Centre which was officially opened by Premier Dalton McGuinty in January 2005. The others are the Mood and Related Disorders Clinic for people with conditions such as depression, and the Stroke and Cognition Clinic for people with vascular dementia caused by stroke.
“In the Brain Health Centre, we’re exploring new and innovative ways to diagnose and manage dementia,” says Dr. Freedman, director of the Memory Clinic. “And I believe that we’re going to be leaders in the development of new models that will help patients with dementia in the future.”
The goal of the centre is to get people the help they need as quickly as possible so they can manage in their own homes. The evaluation process is being streamlined to reduce wait times, and researchers are working side-by-side with clinicians to ensure that patients benefit from the most current scientific knowledge in diagnosis and treatment.
“We’re very fortunate to have multiple disciplines working together, such as social work, nursing, psychology, occupational therapy and speech language pathology,” says Dr. David Conn, director of the Mood Clinic. “And one of the big advantages of the centre is that we can see patients in more than one clinic. For example, patients who have suffered a stroke or have some form of dementia often develop depression and can be referred to the Mood Clinic.”
Patients also take part in research studies that are helping scientists better understand the brain in order to develop new methods of treatment and improved care.
Dr. Jon Ween, director of the Stroke and Cognition Clinic, conducts research to try to predict outcome after stroke. “I’m also interested in how the brain reorganizes after stroke to assist the patient in recovering from the deficits that they’ve suffered,” he explains.
Syd Perlmutter says that he and Mary participate in research studies because, “We want to do our best to help the advancement of science, not only for Mary’s benefit, but for everyone’s benefit.”
For more information about the Brain Health Centre Clinics, please call 416-785-4359. All patients must have a physician referral.