Receiving a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) raises numerous questions and concerns, both for the person who received the diagnosis and those who love them. What causes ALS? What are the current symptoms – and what will they be as time goes by? Where can I turn for help?
About 30,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with ALS, and over 5,000 new patients are diagnosed annually. Although the specific cause is uncertain, research suggests several complex risk factors, including a twofold risk for servicemen and women who served during the Gulf War.
It’s important to know that each individual will experience ALS uniquely. Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics that can be anticipated in each stage of the disease. Being aware of the likely effects of ALS can help you get ready for and plan the most appropriate assistance and support.
The First Stage of ALS
- Only one section of the body might be primarily impacted, with milder symptoms affecting other regions of the body
- The initial muscles affected are typically those utilized for breathing, speaking, or swallowing
Watch out for issues with:
- Grasping items
The Middle Stage of ALS
- Specific muscles may experience paralysis, and others may be weakened or totally unchanged
- Symptoms are more substantial now
- Twitching becomes evident
Watch for problems with:
- Standing without help
- Eating and swallowing
- Breathing – most noticeably when lying down
- Inappropriate, uncontrolled emotions like crying or laughter
The Final Stage of ALS
- Full-time care is necessary
- The capacity to speak can be lost
- Eating and drinking by mouth are no longer possible
Watch out for problems with:
- Paralysis in almost all voluntary muscles
- Confused thinking
How You Can Help in Caring for ALS
Keeping the following in mind can help you give the best suited assistance for an individual you love with ALS.
- People with ALS are competent thinkers, even when they are not able to communicate clearly. Chat with the person directly on the subject of choices to be made and engage them in making decisions and problem-solving.
- Always ask before helping a loved one with ALS perform an activity. The person should continue to do whichever activities they are capable of and want to do, using adaptive products if needed.
- Investigate and implement tech tools to help preserve independence, provide entertainment and socialization opportunities, and much more. There are also a plethora of adaptive devices to help with daily activities, such as eating, writing, opening doors and jars, buttoning or zipping clothing, taking a shower, and much more.
At Grace Home Care, our senior care experts in Topeka, KS are fully trained and skilled in providing support for those with ALS while nurturing independence and self-sufficiency. We begin with a free in-home consultation to develop a unique plan of care, which will be carefully monitored and modified as needs change with time – for the perfect level of care at the right time.