Receiving a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) raises a multitude of questions and considerations, both for the individual who received the diagnosis and those 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?
Approximately 30,000 people in the United States are currently identified as having ALS, and over 5,000 new patients are diagnosed yearly. Though the specific cause is unknown, research suggests several complex risk factors, including a twofold chance for servicemen and women who served in the Gulf War.
It is crucial to be aware that each and every individual will experience ALS in their own way. However, there are certain commonalities which may be expected in each stage of this disease. Being aware of the likely effects of ALS will allow you to prepare for and plan the most appropriate form of care and support.
The First Stage of ALS
- Only one section of the body may be primarily impacted, with less severe symptoms affecting other regions of the body
- The initial muscles affected are usually those used for speaking, swallowing, or breathing
Watch for difficulties with:
- Gripping objects
The Middle Stage of ALS
- Specific muscles may become paralyzed, and others are weakened or entirely unchanged
- Symptoms are more substantial now
- Twitching becomes visible
Watch for difficulties with:
- Standing upright unassisted
- Eating and swallowing
- Breathing – most noticeably when lying down
- Inappropriate, uncontrolled crying or laughter
The Final Stage of ALS
- Full-time care is required
- The capacity to speak might be lost
- Eating and drinking by mouth are no longer possible
Watch out for issues with:
- Paralysis in almost all voluntary muscles
- Confused thinking
Ways You Can Help
Keeping the following in mind can help you provide the best possible support for an individual you love with ALS.
- Individuals with ALS are competent thinkers, even though they may not be in a position to communicate or capable of communicating clearly. Chat with the person directly about choices to be made and engage them in creating decisions and problem-solving.
- Always inquire before helping someone with ALS accomplish an activity. The individual should keep doing whatever activities they are able to and want to do, making use of adaptive products as necessary.
- Research and employ tech tools to help preserve independence, provide entertainment and socialization opportunities, and much more. There are also a great many adaptive devices to help with day-to-day activities, such as taking a shower, eating, opening jars and doors, zipping or buttoning clothing, writing, eating, and much more.
At Absolute Companion Care, a trusted provider of home health services in Towson, MD and the surrounding communities, our exceptional care team is fully trained and skilled in providing support for individuals with ALS while nurturing independence and self-sufficiency. We start out with a free in-home meeting to develop a unique plan of care. Along the way, the plan will be carefully monitored and adjusted as needs change as time passes – for just the right degree of care at the right time.