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What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a neuromuscular disease. It begins as a muscular weakness, but gradually causes paralysis of the entire body. The condition is also often referred to as motor neuron or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The condition is more common amongst the male population. Understanding the basis of (ALS) will help plan better strategies for their loved ones.
Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a neuromuscular disease. It begins as a muscular weakness, but slowly causes paralysis of the entire body. The condition is also often referred to as motor neuron or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The condition is more common amongst the men population. Understanding the basis of ALS would help plan better strategies for their loved one.
Symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
In the initial stages, the symptoms of ALS are so mild and insignificant that they are often ignored. The common symptoms of ALS include the following:
- Weakness in the legs and arms
- Chronic fatigue
- The muscles of the tongue can also weaken. Causing difficulty while speaking and swallowing
- Muscle cramps
Since the muscles of the arms and legs are first affected. Individuals are prone to fall and stumbling during the initial stages. This may be followed by unmanageable bouts of laughter and crying or even slurred speech.
In more advanced stages, breathing becomes difficult. And our affected loved ones may also complain of shortness of breath. Some of our loved ones may also need the help of a ventilator to breathe. Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive disease. And with each passing stage, muscular weakness becomes more severe. Paving the way for paralysis to set in. But, no matter how severe the disease becomes. It will never affect the sense of touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing. This means the five senses stay intact in ALS, unlike other neuromuscular diseases.
Coping strategies for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Living with ALS is not an easy task. And our loved ones will require a lot of courage and support to continue to live with the disease. It is necessary to give time to our loved ones to grieve about the disease. The following coping strategies can help our aging seniors gracefully cope with ALS.
Take your time to accept the diagnosis. The news of a diagnose with ALS, can really be devastating and you may need time to accept the fact. You along with your family would need some time to grieve after the diagnosis.
Don’t lose hope. Being hopeful is the biggest medicine for the disease. The palliative care team will help you focus on the positive aspects. And will also help you live a quality life. Normally, the life expectancy rate is around 3 – 5 years for individuals with ALS. However, some live as long as 10 years after a diagnose with ALS. Being hopeful can help you live a contented and quality life.
Physical incapability is not the end of the road. ALS restricts the individual’s ability to carry out their daily tasks due to muscle weakness. Paralysis is often inevitable in such cases. This makes the individual more prone to depression. However, thinking of ALS as just an insignificant part of your life. This will help you think in a positive direction. And will also help you live a fulfilling life.
Tips to take care of your loved ones with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Understand the disease. Understanding ALS and its symptoms can help you as a caregiver give proper care to your loved one. ALS limits one’s physical ability, which can cause an emotional havoc in their lives. As a caregiver, you need to understand their physical as well as emotional condition. And chalk out better strategies to help them live with the condition.
Take charge of their skin health. It has been often seen that our aging parents with ALS, also suffer from skin problems. Pressure wounds and bedsores are a common accompaniment which requires prompt treatment. Caregivers should keep checking for such wounds and get them treated on time. Check out my post on how to help with bed sores.
Help your loved ones with breathing exercises. ALS is a progressive disease. Which gradually affects the respiratory system, affecting one’s ability to breathe. With breathing exercises, the shortness of breath will lessen. And your loved ones, experience less difficulty while breathing.
Help them with dietary changes. Constipation is again a common problem with individuals suffering from ALS. As muscle weakness progresses, it also cripples the bowel movements. Therefore, feeding your loved ones with fiber-rich diet to ease off constipation is a good idea. You can also consider giving them stool softeners, after consulting with the doctor. Check out my post on constipation.
Speech therapy. ALS, also massively affects the speech of your loved ones. For this, speech therapy is necessary. So that your loved ones can continue to communicate with you and other members of the family. However, if speech is completely lost, a speech therapist will assist with other methods of communication.
These strategies will help you to help your loved ones deal with Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS). This will also, help caregivers plan better care giving strategies for their loved ones.