Receiving a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (often called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) raises a multitude of questions and concerns, both for the patient who received the diagnosis and the people who love them. What causes ALS? What are the symptoms now – and what will they be as time goes on? Who can I go to for help?
Approximately 30,000 people in the US are currently clinically determined to have ALS, and over 5,000 new patients are diagnosed each year. Though the precise cause is uncertain, research suggests multiple complex risk factors, including a doubled risk for veterans who served during the Gulf War.
It is crucial to understand that each and every person will experience ALS in different ways. However, there are specific commonalities which can be anticipated in each stage of the disease. Being aware of the potential effects of ALS will help you prepare for and plan the most appropriate type of assistance and support.
The Initial Stage of ALS
- One part of the body may be primarily affected, with less severe symptoms affecting other areas
- The initial muscles damaged are usually those utilized for speaking, swallowing, or breathing
Watch for difficulties with:
- Gripping objects
The Middle Stage of ALS
- Particular muscles may experience paralysis, while others are weakened or completely unchanged
- Symptoms tend to be more extensive now
- Twitching becomes evident
Watch for difficulties with:
- Standing upright without help
- Eating and swallowing
- Breathing – most noticeably when lying down
- Inappropriate, uncontrolled crying or laughter
The Final Stage of ALS
- Full-time care is necessary
- The ability to speak can be lost
- Eating and drinking by mouth are no longer possible
Watch for issues with:
- Paralysis in most voluntary muscles
- Unclear thinking
Some Ways to Help
Keeping the following in mind will allow you to offer the best support for a person you love with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Individuals with ALS are competent thinkers, even though they may not be in a position to communicate clearly. Talk with the individual directly about choices to be made and engage them with regard to making decisions and problem-solving.
- Always inquire before helping a loved one with ALS execute a task. The individual should continue to manage any tasks they are able to and wish to do, using adaptive devices as needed.
- Research and implement tech tools to help preserve self-reliance, provide entertainment and socialization opportunities, and much more. There are also a great many adaptive tools to help with daily tasks, such as eating, writing, opening doors and jars, buttoning or zipping clothing, taking a shower, and more.
At Anthem Home Care, a trusted provider of in-home care in Portland, TX and the surrounding communities, our award-winning care team is fully trained and skilled in providing support for individuals with ALS while promoting independence and self-sufficiency. We start out with a no–cost in-home consultation to develop a unique plan of care. Along the way, the care plan will be carefully monitored and adjusted as needs change over time – for just the right amount of care at the right time.