ALS is a disease that progressively shuts down your muscles by attacking certain cells in the brain and spinal cord needed to keep our muscles moving. Eventually, patients will lose their mobility, have trouble moving, walking, swallowing and even breathing. There is no known cure for ALS and the treatments available only slow the progression of the disease a little. But there are certain therapies that can help with patients’ daily life.
Here’s a list of six ALS therapies to improve quality of life (source: Mayo Clinic):
As times goes by, ALS patients will end up having difficulties with breathing as their muscles become weaker. To help with breathing, doctors usually test patients’ breathing capacity regularly and may provide devices to assist breathing at night. In some cases, it may be necessary for patients to breathe through mechanical ventilation; a tube is inserted in a surgically created hole at the front of the neck leading to a patient’s windpipe (tracheostomy), and the tube is connected to a respirator to help with the breathing.
Moving is always important, especially when mobility is worsening by the day. Receiving physical therapy will help ALS patients to improve and strengthen their muscles. A physical therapist can address pain, walking, mobility, bracing and equipment needs that can help maintain independence. With the help of a physical therapist, ALS patients can participate in low-impact exercises to maintain their cardiovascular fitness and muscle-strengthening exercises, among other things.
An occupational therapist can help ALS patients in several different ways:
- To understand how best to modify the house they live in to allow accessibility when they start losing their mobility and muscle strength. With these home changes, walking safely around the house will be easier.
- Help ALS patients compensate for the lack of mobility in their hands and arms, allowing patients to keep some independence for as long as possible.
- The therapist will introduce patients to adaptive equipment that may help with continuing to perform daily activities such as dressing, grooming, eating and bathing.
Eating healthy is extremely important in all circumstances in life, especially if your health is affected. Having a nutritional support team means that a patient will have someone to work with in order to ensure the food they’re eating and their daily habits are the most suitable choices. It’s important to remember that, over time, patients may lose their ability to chew and swallow as they used to, so the nutritional team will make sure that patients are eating foods that are easy to swallow and meet their nutritional needs.
Because ALS affects the muscles used for speaking, communication becomes an issue as the disease progresses. A speech therapist can teach patients some adaptive techniques to make a normal speech more clearly understood, just as before the disease. Later in disease progression, a speech therapist can recommend devices such as tablet computers with text-to-speech applications or computer-based equipment with synthesized speech that may help with communication. Fortunately, there are now several technical devices that can improve the communication between patients and their loved ones.
Psychological and social support
ALS patients’ care team may include a social worker to help with financial issues, insurance, getting equipment and paying for devices they may need. Psychologists, social workers, and others may provide emotional support for patients and their family and carers.
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