ALS stands for Amyotrophic Laterals Sclerosis, but the disease is more commonly known as Lou Gherig’s disease. Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball player who was diagnosed with the disease, ending his career more than 75 years ago. ALS is a progressive disease that destroys nerve cells that control the muscles. The muscles atrophy, causing the patient to become disabled and eventually results in death. Typically, death in ALS patients comes as a result of respiratory failure when the patient loses control of their diaphragm and can no longer breathe. There is no cure for ALS.
There are two types of ALS, familial (or hereditary) and sporadic. Sporadic ALS is by far the most common form and accounts for between 90 and 95 percent of cases. ALS usually strikes between the ages of 40 and 70, though there are cases in which people are diagnosed younger than 40 or older than 70. Because ALS so often occurs later in life, the adult children of older parents with ALS sometimes find themselves acting as caregivers to their disabled parents. As the disease progresses and the parent becomes more disabled, it may be necessary to hire a home caregiver through an agency to assist with care
Symptoms of ALS
ALS usually starts in the feet, hands, arms, or legs and then spreads to other parts of the body. Some of the first symptoms that may appear are:
- Trouble walking with increased tripping and falling.
- Hands become clumsy or weak.
- Legs, feet, or ankles get weak.
- Speech becomes slurred.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Twitching or muscle cramps in the shoulders, arms, or tongue.
- Trouble maintaining good posture or holding the head up.
Risk Factors for ALS
The risk factors associated with ALS are:
- Age: The risk for ALS grows larger with age.
- Gender: Women are more likely to be diagnosed with ALS before the age of 65, but the difference in diagnosis rates between the genders decreases at the age of 70.
- Genetics: Studies have indicated that certain genetic variations make a person more susceptible to ALS.
- Heredity: In cases of familial ALS, the children of those with ALS have a 50 percent chance of getting ALS.
When a parent is diagnosed with ALS, the news can be devastating not only to the parent, but also to their family. It’s normal to grieve, but there is also cause for hope. Though the typical life expectancy with ALS is three to five years, many people live longer than that. ALS can also draw families close together as they work together to ensure care for a parent with ALS. There are support groups that may be helpful to families affected by ALS. While caring for a person with ALS is difficult, forming a team of caregivers who can share the load makes the task easier and helps prevent caregiver burnout. It may be necessary to hire home caregivers to enable the patient to stay in the home longer.
If you or an aging loved one is considering caregivers in Mesa, AZ, please contact the caring staff at SYNERGY HomeCare today: 480-377-6770.