A Background On ALS
ALS, short for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a progressive disease that is neurologic in origin. Often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, it is characterized by an attack on the neurons in the brain that are responsible for the control of voluntary muscles. ALS is one of the motor neuron diseases where the brain and spinal cord cells are progressively damaged and then die, causing an individual to lose voluntary muscular movement. This leads to debilitating signs such as twitching and muscle atrophy, among others.
Up until today, there is no cure for ALS, although a new drug therapy has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration believed to reduce the degeneration of the motor nerves. However, it does not reverse any damage that has already been done.
Aside from this new discovery, treatment for ALS is focused more on reducing the individual’s symptoms, helping him cope with his disabilities, and improving his way of life despite his disease. Healthcare professionals work together to create plans that involve physical and occupational therapy and providing physical and emotional needs, with the end purpose of making him feel as comfortable as possible.
People with ALS may also consult their physician about prescription drugs that they can take to decrease pain, fatigue, and muscle cramping. Depression and anxiety are also among the common problems that ALS patients deal with, and there are drugs that help control these mental health issues.
ALS Healthcare Team Management
To maintain the integrity of their muscles, the physical therapist can suggest exercises that don’t cause over-fatigue. Occupational therapists, on the other hand, can work on supplementary aids like ramps, walkers, or braces to help patients decrease their energy expenditure when walking or doing other voluntary movements.
For their communication problems, the speech therapist plays a vital role in teaching them strategies on how to communicate more efficiently. As the disease moves towards its advanced stage, the patient will have more difficulty speaking, more so producing comprehensible language. With that, the speech therapist must train him to learn how to utilize non-verbal techniques of communication.
The Role Of The Caregiver
As a caregiver of a person with ALS, you must realize that you have a very relevant role. Your patience, resilience, time, knowledge and sincere commitment are a requirement. Taking care of an ALS patient can be draining and frustrating too, so you should be strong enough to share strength and persistence despite the realities of his disease.
Most caregivers of ALS individuals are proud of being able to provide support and care, but sometimes the challenges of being who you are can take a toll on you as well. Before you experience burnout because of too much work and pressure, you will need to device a plan for your own sanity and self-care. When you are prepared to take care of yourself, you are able to maintain your quality of life while trying to help others maintain theirs. The more mentally and emotionally stable you are, the better you are able to provide care for others.
Some Takeaway Tips For The ALS Caregiver
If you think you need a deeper kind of healing, seek the help of a therapist. He can guide you into making your life more organized and stress-free. Caregiving is not an easy job, but it can be made more meaningful if you are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready for the role.