Receiving a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) raises a multitude of questions and concerns, both for the individual diagnosed and those who love them. What causes ALS? What are the current symptoms – and what will they be as time goes on? Where can I turn for help?
Approximately 30,000 people in the US are presently living with Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as ALS), and more than 5,000 new patients are diagnosed yearly. Though the exact cause is not certain, studies suggest a number of complex risk factors, including a twofold risk for servicemen and women who served during the Gulf War.
It’s important to know that every individual will experience ALS in different ways. However, there are particular commonalities that can be expected in each stage of the disease. Being conscious of the potential impacts of ALS will allow you to prepare for and plan the most appropriate assistance and support.
The First Stage of ALS
- Just one section of the body may be primarily affected, with less severe symptoms affecting other regions of the body
- The initial muscles affected tend to be those used for speaking, swallowing, or breathing
Watch out for problems with:
- Grasping objects
The Middle Stage of ALS
- Specific muscles may experience paralysis, while others are weakened or totally unchanged
- Symptoms are usually more extensive now
- Twitching becomes noticeable
Watch out for difficulties with:
- Standing up unassisted
- Eating and swallowing
- Breathing – most noticeably when lying down
- Inappropriate, uncontrolled emotions like crying or laughter
The Late Stage of ALS
- Full-time care is necessary
- The capacity to speak might be lost
- Eating and drinking by mouth are no longer possible
Watch for problems with:
- Paralysis in most voluntary muscles
- Unclear thinking
Ways to Help
Keeping the tips below in mind can help you offer the most effective support for a person you love with ALS.
- People who have ALS are competent thinkers, even if they are not able to communicate clearly. Speak with the individual directly regarding choices to be made and engage them in making decisions and problem-solving.
- Always ask prior to helping a person with ALS accomplish an activity. The person should complete any tasks they can and want to do, making use of adaptive devices as needed.
- Research and utilize tech tools to help maintain self-reliance, provide entertainment and socialization opportunities, and much more. Additionally, there are plenty of adaptive devices to help with everyday tasks, such as taking a shower, eating, opening jars and doors, zipping or buttoning clothing, writing, eating, and much more.
Are you caring for a loved one who is living with Lou Gehrig’s disease? We’re here to help. At Live Free Home Health Care, our experts in long-term care in Concord, NH and the surrounding areas are fully trained and skilled in providing support for individuals with ALS while encouraging independence and self-sufficiency. We start out with a cost-free in-home consultation to develop a personalized care plan. Care plans are carefully monitored and modified as time passes – for the most appropriate degree of care at the right time.