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UNDERSTANDING THE STAGES OF ALS (A.K.A. LOU GEHRIG’S DISEASE)

August 12, 2013

An ALS diagnosis is certainly a scary, life-changing moment for a patient and his or her family.  Each person experiences ALS differently, some progressing quickly through the different stages, some experiencing frequent plateaus and progressing slowly.  Knowing the different general stages of ALS and what to expect with each can help patients and their family members create a care strategy for the road ahead.

Early Stages
 

  • Symptoms may be limited to a single region of the body.

  • Mild symptoms may affect more than one region

  • For some people, the muscles for speaking, swallowing or breathing are the first to be affected.


Possible Symptoms:

 

  • Fatigue

  • Poor balance

  • Slurred words

  • Weak grip

  • Tripping when walking


Middle Stages

 

  • Some muscles are paralyzed, while others are weakened or unaffected.

  • Symptoms become more widespread.

  • Twitching may continue.


Possible Symptoms:

 

  • Difficulty standing on one’s own.

  • Difficulty eating and swallowing – causing choking.

  • Finding it hard to breathe, especially when lying down.

  • Some people in this stage experience bouts of uncontrolled and inappropriate laughing or crying called the pseudobulbar affect (PBA).


Late Stages
 

  • The person with ALS is unable to care for his or her own needs.

  • Speech may no longer be possible.

  • Eating and drinking by mouth aren’t possible.


Possible Symptoms:

 

  • Most voluntary muscles are paralyzed.

  • The ability to move air in and out of the lungs is severely compromised, causing fatigue, fuzzy thinking, headaches and susceptibility to pneumonia.

  • Severely limited mobility.


As the disease progresses and the roles of the family caregiver evolve, the demands of caring for mid-to-late stage loved ones can be very difficult on the family caregivers.  We at AAging Better have helped a number of north Idaho families care for their ALS loved ones by providing respite care and regularly scheduled hourly care. Our caregivers are skilled at caring for the daily needs of ALS patients while being mindful of the needs of the families as well.

If you or a family caregiver needs time away from the daily chores of caregiving, or you’re looking for a regular set of scheduled hours on a daily or weekly basis to help provide care for you or your loved one with ALS, consider giving us a call to discuss your unique situation.  We are here to help in any way we can.

If calling from the Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Hayden Lake areas, we can be contacted at 208-777-0308; or if calling from the Sandpoint, Priest River, Bonners Ferry areas, call 208-263-7889; and if calling from Kellogg, Pinehurst, or Wallace areas, contact us at 208-784-1505.  If calling from outside of north Idaho, feel free to call our toll free number at 1-877-464-2344.  We would be happy to speak with you at any time of the day or weekend.

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