Alzheimer’s Disease
Virtual pillbox for dementia patients
Balance, available for iPhone

The pillbox, which sorts medications by dosage and day, is getting a digital makeover.

Balance, an iPhone app ($3.99), was released last month by the New York-based National Alzheimer Center as a way to track dosages of medications used to treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, which can affect a person’s memory and behavior.

A virtual pillbox, the app lists medications, dosages and the time of day each treatment should be taken. Users can mark a check box when a pill has been swallowed, making the app a useful tool for a caregiver to communicate with a patient or doctor and for multiple caregivers to communicate with each other. The app includes a schedule that alerts users to dose times and doctor’s appointments.

The app also allows caregivers to track a patient’s physical, behavioral and emotional changes, manage doctor’s notes, find caregiving tips and read articles relating to the disease.

Quelling the tornado of Tourette’s
“Ticked” by James A. Fussel and Jeffrey P. Matovic

Drugs hadn’t worked. Neither had physical therapy or prayer. After three decades of full-body outbursts — the involuntary jerks that are a hallmark of Tourette’s syndrome — Jeffrey Matovic was at the end of his rope. He was contemplating suicide when he found one last option, a technology that seemed straight out of a sci-fi movie: deep brain stimulation.

DBS involves boring through the skull and implanting electrodes that alter the electrical activity of parts of the brain. Though DBS therapy wasn’t new — it is an approved treatment for disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s — it had never been used to correct Tourette’s. But Matovic was out of options.

“The surgery was more than complex,” according to a book about Matovic’s 2004 operation. “By all accounts, using a brain stimulator to try to interrupt the misfiring signals of [Tourette’s syndrome] was a medical Hail Mary.”

“Ticked,” co-written by Matovic and journalist James Fussel (who also suffers from Tourette’s), describes how Matovic became the “miracle man” — the first Tourette’s patient to undergo DBS treatment, a risky step that gave him control over his body for the first time in his life.

The book also takes readers into the world of those who suffer from Tourette’s. The writers describe their own daily struggles with symptoms that can include uncontrollable grunting, punching, head shaking and eye blinking.

Tourette’s, the book explains, is manifested in a variety of vocal and physical forms, running the gamut from barely noticeable tics to the extreme full-body spasms that Matovic experienced. At one Tourette’s conference, Fussel was accosted and undressed by a woman who felt compelled to unbutton things such as shirts and pants; another woman was obsessed with the game “Duck, Duck, Goose” and would yell the final word like “a wolf howling at the moon,” the book says.

“Tourette’s is like a tornado that rages through our body. It leaves behind a debris field of unwanted movements and bizarre behaviors,” the writers note.

The book also includes information about the research being done on movement disorders such as Tourette’s and the treatment options available for people who, like Matovic, haven’t lost hope.

Maggie Fazeli Fard