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ALS Awareness Month: Help for Patients and Caregivers

As age increases, so does the risk of developing a serious health condition. This includes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS. ALS is a serious disease that affects approximately five out of 100,000 in the United States. Most people who develop this condition will need long-term care as the disease progresses.. ALS awareness month is the perfect opportunity to educate yourself about this health issue so you can take the right steps, either for yourself or as a primary caregiver.

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called Lou Gehrig's disease) is a disease of the nervous system. It mainly affects the neurons that are responsible for voluntary muscle movement. While it is rare, anyone can develop ALS. It is more common among senior adults between the ages of 55 and 75.

ALS is progressive which means it worsens over time. Much is being done to research this disease, but there is still no cure. However, medical treatments do exist to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression rate of the disease.

Symptoms of ALS

The warning signs of ALS are relatively vast and varied. Some patients experience their first symptoms in their legs, while others may notice them in their mouth or arms instead. In general, the early symptoms of ALS can include:

  • Unexplained muscle pain or weakness

  • Loss of coordination and balance

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Speech issues

  • Trouble with everyday activities, such as writing, walking, or dressing

  • Muscle twitches or cramps

Over time, patients may experience other symptoms that are more specific to ALS, such as:

  • Excessive drooling

  • Inability to eat or drink

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Loss of use of limbs and appendages

  • Depression

  • Dementia

The long-term effects of ALS can lead to death without constant medical intervention or life support. Changes in mobility and body function can also cause a decline in overall health.

It is important to talk with your doctor any time you experience new or worsening symptoms, no matter how small they may seem at the time. This is especially true for those with a family history of ALS. If you notice any unusual changes that could be possible symptoms, see your doctor right away. Many medications and therapies can help keep symptoms under control for longer, slowing the progression of the disease.

Caring for Those With ALS

Patients will need round-the-clock care as the disease progresses. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with ALS, it's time to start planning for the future. Home Helpers of Drexel Hill is dedicated to providing the best in care for seniors with a variety of needs, including ALS. Contact us today to learn more about the services we can provide to offer you the very best in senior care.