Receiving a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) raises plenty of questions and considerations, both for the individual who received the diagnosis and the ones who love them. What causes ALS? What are the symptoms now – and what will they be in the future? Who can I go to for help?
About 30,000 people in the US are presently diagnosed with ALS, and over 5,000 new patients are diagnosed annually. Though the precise cause is not certain, studies suggest multiple complex risk factors, including a doubled risk for servicemen and women who served during the Gulf War.
It’s important to know that each person will experience ALS uniquely. Nevertheless, there are specific commonalities that can be expected in each stage of this disease. Being aware of the effects of ALS will help you get ready for and plan the best form of care and support.
The First Phase of ALS
- Only one part of the body might be primarily affected, with milder symptoms affecting other areas
- The initial muscles damaged are generally those utilized for speaking, swallowing, or breathing
Watch for issues with:
- Grasping objects
The Middle Stage of ALS
- Specific muscles may experience paralysis, and others are weakened or entirely unchanged
- Symptoms are usually more substantial now
- Twitching becomes noticeable
Watch out for problems with:
- Standing unassisted
- 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 required
- The capacity to speak could be lost
- Eating and drinking by mouth are not possible
Watch for issues with:
- Paralysis in most voluntary muscles
- Unclear thinking
How to Help
Keeping the tips below in mind can help you offer the most effective support for an individual you love with ALS.
- Individuals with ALS are proficient thinkers, even though they may not be in a position to communicate clearly. Talk with the person directly about choices to be made and engage them in making decisions and problem-solving.
- Always inquire prior to helping a loved one with ALS complete a task. The individual should keep doing any activities they can and wish to do, utilizing adaptive solutions as needed.
- Research and implement tech tools to help preserve self-reliance, provide entertainment and socialization opportunities, and much more. There is also an array of adaptive tools to help with daily activities, such as opening doors and jars, zipping or buttoning clothing, writing, taking a shower, eating, and much more.
Need more information on how home care providers help ALS patients live fuller, more active lives? At Compassionate Nursing Services, our experts in home care assistance in St. Louis and surrounding areas are fully trained and experienced in providing support for individuals with ALS. We also focus on fostering independence and self-sufficiency. We start out with a consultation to develop a personalized plan of assistance. Our plans are then carefully monitored and modified as needs evolve with time – for the most appropriate level of help at the right time.