Understanding the Stages of ALS

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and it’s also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord and worsens over time. It prevents signals from the brain from reaching muscles all over the body. Muscles become unusable as a result of the absence of nutrients and stimulation. Unused nerve cells in the spinal cord stiffen and develop scars.

A person with ALS holds on to their senses of taste, hearing, and touch. Lou Gehrig’s disease will not affect their sense of smell or sight. It is common for a person who has ALS to still have control of their bladder and eye movement even as other muscles of the body deteriorate. End-stage ALS usually requires the aid of a breathing machine. Unable to turn in bed, it will become necessary for a loved one or other caregiver to turn the person every few hours to prevent bedsores and pneumonia.

A common cause of the misdiagnosis of ALS is its similarities to other diseases. When a person is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, they can usually live for up to five more years. Some people have lived more than ten years with the disease. Though there are many similarities, each person is different, and their ability to function physically is individual.


In the Beginning: Early Stages of ALS

Lou Gehrig’s disease can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. The person exhibiting symptoms might have some muscle weakness or occasional slurred speech. It might be difficult to hold an object with their hand. Numbness might affect areas of their body from time to time. It could become more and more difficult to swallow.


Progression of ALS

A cane can be of great help in the early stages of ALS. Offer your loved one your arm to hold onto and be ready to help when necessary. Many people find it difficult to depend on others, so it is important not to force help but to be there if it is needed.

As time goes on, it will become more difficult to move, to speak clearly, and to eat. At some point, a caregiver will become necessary, whether at home or in an assisted living community. Eventually, a skilled nursing setting or hospice will be needed.

There is no set timeline for Lou Gehrig’s disease since it affects people so differently. Sometimes there are reverses of symptoms, but these seldom last as long as the person with ALS would like. The progression of the disease is quick.


Transitioning to Hospice

Moving your loved one from home to hospice is emotional and stressful. Even if you choose to have hospice care in your home for end-of-life care, the burden on you as a caregiver may be unbearable at times. Dellwood Gardens offers respite care in your Saint Paul & Area home or at our location to ease your worry, if just for a little while.

At Dellwood Gardens, we give your loved ones the care and respect you would give them yourself. We focus on their comfort during the end of their journey. Call us today and speak to one of our compassionate staff members to set up an appointment to tour our hospice facility and to ask any questions. We are here for you and your family.

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