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Is TMS a Treatment Option for Senior Depression?

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Can brain stimulation using magnets make depressed seniors feel better? That’s a question researchers have been trying to answer since 1985 when the first successful study of transcranial magnet stimulation, or TMS, was performed in Sheffield, England. While there’s still no definitive answer, the staff at Douglas County Home Care Assistance shares some interesting information and results from recent studies.

What is TMS?

TMS is a non-invasive procedure that employs magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. In 2008, the FDA approved the treatment for use on patients who don’t respond to antidepressant medication. TMS is a fast, painless and safe treatment with few side effects. The procedure typically targets the prefrontal cortex, sending pulses of magnetic energy deep into the structures of the brain that regulate emotions and motivation. 

TMS and Older Adults

The jury is still out as whether TMS is a useful treatment for seniors suffering from depression. A 2012 study published in the journal CNS Spectrums compared the efficacy of TMS among different age groups and found that older adults had a lower response to the treatment than younger patients. Some studies, however, showed response rates in elderly patients as high as 39 percent.

A review of TMS studies published in the journal Neuropsychiatry Disease and Treatment suggests that TMS is most successful in older patients with vascular depression where hardened blood vessels reduce or block normal blood flow to the brain.

A Promising Treatment

Because the mechanisms that make TMS effective aren’t entirely understood, tailoring the treatment to individual patients presents numerous challenges. Scientists have yet to agree as to the number of procedures a patient should receive, the strength of each magnetic pulse and the precise location on the prefrontal cortex to target. Nevertheless, most researchers agree that when it comes to treating depression in seniors, TMS has a bright and promising future.

If you believe your senior loved one is depressed, make an appointment as soon as possible with his or her physician. Sometimes, seniors experience depression because of limited mobility issues affecting their daily life, isolation and feelings of loneliness, or lacking purpose. An hourly caregiver who can provide physical assistance and transportation, offer companionship, and support purposeful activities is often a helpful resource for mitigating these symptoms and issues. To learn more about part-time care services near you, reach out to Home Care Assistance at 720-441-3522 and schedule a complimentary in-home consultation with a friendly Care Manager.