Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is sometimes better known as Lou Gherig’s disease. It is a disease that affects the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements. ALS is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. People have different experiences with the progression of ALS. Some people will move slowly through the stages and others more rapidly. If someone you love has been diagnosed with ALS, it’s important to understand the stages of ALS and how family caregivers and professional home care providers can help during each stage.
Sometimes the symptoms of early stage are so subtle that the disease isn’t even diagnosed until after the stage is over. Symptoms often begin in the hands or arms. A person with ALS may initially notice they are having trouble doing certain things with their hands, like buttoning clothing. While not everyone will experience the same symptoms, some of the common symptoms that occur during the early stage are:
- Muscles become weak or soft.
- Muscles become stiff and rigid.
- Muscles twitch or cramp.
- Poor balance.
- Slurred speech.
While your loved one may not need a great deal of help at this stage, the early stage is a good time to start thinking and talking about what help may be needed in the future. For example, you may wish to start talking to home care agencies and finding one that is the right fit for you, as an in-home care provider could help your loved one to remain at home longer.
During this phase, your loved one might need some help doing certain tasks. Help when you are asked, but allow the person to remain as independent as possible. Be an emotional support to your loved one and reassure them that you are there for them and will help them through the days to come.
When your loved one reaches the middle stage of ALS, symptoms begin to affect more of the body. Middle stage symptoms include:
- Paralysis of some muscles, while others are weaker. Some muscles may still be unaffected.
- Stiff, painful, or deformed joints due to unused muscles.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Trouble swallowing.
During the middle stage, your loved one will no longer be able to drive. They may also need to use assistive mobility devices to get around as well as other adaptive equipment, such as a shower chair or communication devices.
This stage of the disease is when things become more difficult and the demand on caregivers is greater. A home care provider can ease some of the responsibility placed on loved ones and give family caregivers a break. Home care providers can help by assisting the person to move around, driving the person to appointments or other activities, and assist with dressing, bathing, and other personal care tasks.
During the late stage of ALS, the person will need constant care as they will be unable to do anything for themselves. Symptoms include:
- Most muscles are paralyzed.
- Breathing is extremely difficult.
- Unable to eat or drink by mouth.
- May be unable to speak.
Home care providers and family caregivers will need to provide total assistance to the person. Because ALS does not typically affect a person’s mind, your loved one will still have emotional and social needs. Try to keep them involved and provide mental stimulation. A home care provider can read to your loved one and spend time visiting with them.
If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring professional home care in Trussville, AL, call and talk to the staff at Lipford Home Care (205) 623-5700.