May is ALS Awareness Month. ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but you may be more familiar with the disease by its other name, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a disease that typically strikes people when they are between the ages of 40 and 60. ALS is a progressive disease that has no cure. People typically live between 3 and 5 years after being diagnosed, but some live longer.
An ALS Overview
ALS is a disorder of the nervous system. It damages nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movements. When the cells die, the muscles no longer receive signals to make them move. This causes the person to be unable to control muscle movement. In most people with ALS, the muscles that control breathing are eventually affected and death is caused by respiratory failure.
There are two kinds of ALS, sporadic and familial. Sporadic ALS accounts for the vast majority of cases, approximately 90 to 95 percent. With sporadic ALS, doctors are unable to determine a cause. Familial ALS runs in families. The children of someone with familial ALS have a 50 percent chance of getting the disease.
Although doctors don’t know what causes ALS, they have identified some risk factors, such as:
• Family History: Family history of ALS is important in cases where the disease is familial.
• Age: ALS is most often diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60.
• Sex: Before age 65, more men than women get ALS. By age 70, that difference disappears.
• Genetics: Some studies have shown similarities in gene mutations between people with familial ALS and sporadic ALS, so genes may be involved.
Symptoms of ALS
The symptoms of ALS typically start with twitching muscles or unexplained weakness in an arm or leg. Or, the person may begin to exhibit slurred speech. Other early symptoms of ALS include:
• Trouble walking or performing regular daily activities
• Tripping and falling.
• A feeling of weakness in feet, ankles, or legs.
• Hands that are weak and/or clumsy.
• Difficulty swallowing.
• Muscle cramps.
• Trouble holding up the head or maintaining good posture.
In some cases, ALS affects cognitive abilities. According to the ALS Association, about 50 percent of people with ALS develop at least mild to moderate cognitive problems. 20 percent develop full-blown dementia.
If you have an older family member with ALS, senior care can help them to continue living at home for as long as possible. Senior care providers can help with many aspects of daily living, including dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom. A senior care provider can also help with transfers from a wheelchair to bed or other surfaces. Senior care providers can even help to keep the house clean, cook meals, and run errands.
If you or someone you know needs help with Senior Care in Grand Rapids, MI, contact Gauthier Family Home Care. We provide quality and affordable homecare services in our community. Call us at (616) 258-2300 for more information.
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