Last week, we discussed Parkinson’s disease and the ways to relieve an elderly loved one’s symptoms. This week on the Griswold Blog, we’re going to be following a similar format, but with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Organizations working to fight ALS, including the ALS Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, have dedicated the month of May to raising ALS awareness by hosting activities and seminars across the country. So we’re going to follow suit — on a smaller scale, of course — and help raise your ALS awareness with our next three blog posts.
First, the bullet point basics:
- ALS is precipitated by the gradual death of nerve cells that control muscle movement, which in turn causes muscles to progressively weaken and waste away.
- The cause of ALS is unknown, but researchers are studying several possibilities, including gene mutation, chemical imbalance, autoimmune responses and the mishandling of proteins within nerve cells.
- One in 10 cases of ALS is inherited, with the rest appearing to occur randomly.
- ALS usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Early signs and symptoms include difficulty lifting the front part of the foot and toes (“footdrop”); weakness in the hands, legs, feet and ankles; clumsiness; slurring of speech; trouble swallowing; muscle cramps and twitching in the arms, shoulders and tongue.
- Usually beginning in the hands or feet, the disease then spreads to the rest of the body and weakens muscles until they’re completely paralyzed. Eventually, people with ALS are rendered unable to chew, swallow, speak and breathe on their own.
- ALS is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, honoring the famous baseball player who was diagnosed with it in 1939.
ALS is a severely incapacitating and fatal disease. If you have a friend or family member with ALS, you understand and vicariously experience the pain and frustration that comes with it. So instead of dwelling on the debilitating details, we’re going to provide some hope and relief with ways to support your loved one.
Check back later this week or subscribe to the Griswold blog for advice on how to provide relief for your loved one with ALS.
Do you have a loved one with ALS? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.