I remember very clearly that moment when I knew what I wanted to do for my PhD. It was 1994 and I was visiting a long-term care facility as part of my studies. I met some really agitated patients with dementia. When I asked the doctor with me what caused the agitation in some patients but not others, he said no one really knew.
I thought to myself we need to understand this. There has to be a better way. So I decided I was going to study the role of a brain chemical called serotonin in agitation and see if there was a way to target it to give people relief.
While we’ve made a lot of progress since 1994 and have a wider range of treatments, there is still so much more we can do to better help those suffering with agitation.
When I meet agitated patients during my research I really feel for them. Their lack of happiness and unrest is just so obvious. But because each brain is different, one size does not fit all in terms of treatment. I hope that when I retire I will have helped come up with better medications for a wider range of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
I also want to make a difference in people’s lives outside of my research. I think it is important to take time to talk to them about what they are feeling and reassure them and their caregivers that their behaviour isn’t their fault. It’s the underlying disease that causes agitation. I hope that too makes a difference.
Alzheimer Society Research Program grant recipient