Receiving a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) raises numerous questions and concerns, both for the person who received the diagnosis and the people who love them. What are the causes of ALS? What are the current symptoms – and how will they change as time goes on? What are my support options?
Approximately 30,000 people in the United States are currently diagnosed with ALS, and over 5,000 new patients are diagnosed every year. Though the precise cause is unknown, studies suggest multiple complex risk factors, including a twofold risk for veterans who served during the Gulf War.
It is important to know that each individual will experience ALS uniquely. Nevertheless, there are particular characteristics that can be anticipated in each stage of this disease. Being aware of the impacts of ALS will help you get ready for and plan the most appropriate form of assistance and support.
The First Stage of ALS
- One area of the body might be primarily affected, with milder symptoms affecting other regions of the body
- The initial muscles damaged are typically those utilized for breathing, speaking, or swallowing
Watch for issues with:
- Grasping objects
The Middle Stage of ALS
- Specific muscles may experience paralysis, while others are weakened or entirely unchanged
- Symptoms tend to be more widespread now
- Twitching becomes apparent
Watch for difficulties 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 needed
- The ability to speak may be lost
- Eating and drinking by mouth are no longer possible
Watch out for difficulties with:
- Paralysis in most voluntary muscles
- Confused thinking
Tips on How to Help
Keeping the following in mind can help you supply the most beneficial assistance for an individual you love with ALS.
- Individuals with ALS are competent thinkers, even though they are not able to communicate clearly. Speak with the individual directly about choices to be made and engage them in making decisions and problem-solving.
- Always inquire prior to helping someone with ALS accomplish a task. The person should keep doing any activities they are capable of and want to do, utilizing adaptive solutions as necessary.
- Investigate and employ tech tools to help maintain autonomy, provide entertainment and socialization opportunities, and much more. Additionally, there are numerous adaptive devices to help with daily tasks, such as eating, writing, opening doors and jars, buttoning or zipping clothing, taking a shower, and more.
Are you a family caregiver helping a loved one with Lou Gehrig’s disease? At Home With You Senior Care, our Ellicott City senior care team is fully trained and skilled in providing support for anyone with ALS while promoting independence and self-sufficiency. We start out with a free in-home consultation to develop a personalized plan of care. Each plan of care is monitored and modified as needs change over time – for the ideal level of care at the right time.