ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The nerve cells or motor neurons in these areas are starved to the point of dying. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. The progressive nature of ALS leads to the inability to speak, move, eat, and breathe. In short, someone with ALS eventually dies by involuntarily suffocating themselves.
Sometimes ALS is referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease because of the fact that the famous baseball player, Lou Gehrig, did so much to bring awareness of the disease to the forefront after his diagnosis several years ago.
Two types of ALS
There are two forms of ALS. The most common for is usually referred to as ‘sporadic ALS’; meaning there are no genetic factors involved in the contraction of the disease. The other form, familial ALS, is genetically passed down from one generation to the next.
ALS usually strikes people between the age of forty and seventy and varies in its rate of progression.
To date there is no cure for ALS, but thanks to dedicated researchers and public awareness campaigns like the ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE, progress is being made.
If you have a loved one with ALS
Because there is no cure for ALS, we are forced to face the fact that ALS is a killer. So if you have a loved one with ALS you are facing the fact that there is nothing you can do to stop the disease, but there are things you can do to make the quality of the patient’s life better.
- Wheelchairs, power chairs, scooters, and walkers help maintain a sense of secure mobility as movement becomes increasingly difficult.
- Oxygen will be essential as breathing becomes more difficult.
- Powerlifts allow patients to go up and down stairs in their home; giving them the option to remain in their own home longer.
- Walk-in showers and tubs, bath seats, and grab bars in the bathroom allow patients to do self-care safely. These items also help caregivers do so with greater ease and with greater comfort to the patient.
- Tools to help patients with dressing, eating, and communication are also available to increase the quality of life and dignity in the latter stages of ALS.
If you have a loved one with ALS, don’t delay in letting the home healthcare industry assist you in assisting your loved one. Time is of the essence.