Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes nerve cells to die. As the disease progresses, patients have difficulty moving, feeding, dressing, and completing many other tasks.

Patients can work with physical and occupational therapists to maintain their quality of life and mobility for as long as possible. Therapists may prescribe adaptive devices to assist patients and their caregivers, and ensure they are being used most effectively.

Mobility devices

There are various types of assistive devices that can make walking safer. A cane may be the most useful tool when one leg is weaker than the other, or when a patient has mild balance deficits. A walker also can be used if patients need more support to walk.

Orthotic bracing (such as on an ankle) can help stabilize a weak limb, making it easier for patients to rise from a sitting position. For patients who have difficulty holding their head straight, a neck brace may increase comfort.

Some patients may need a wheelchair or motorized chair. Wheelchairs are recommended when patients experience excessive fatigue, unsteadiness, or occasional falls.

Assistive devices for daily tasks

Assistive devices also are available to aid in everyday tasks, such as dressing and maintaining dental hygiene if arm strength and movement become limited as the disease progresses.

There are specially designed eating utensils that are easier to grip and use, and arm supports to make eating easier.

Communication aids

As the disease progresses, many patients with ALS will have difficulty speaking. There are a variety of alternative and augmentative communication devices (AACs) that may help ALS patients communicate. An occupational therapist or speech and language specialist can help determine which device is best for the patient.

Breathing aids

Some ALS patients will have difficulty breathing. A ventilation machine, a device that increases airflow in the lungs, is one option for a breathing aid. Patients will need to consult with respiratory professionals to decide which breathing aid is right for them.

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ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.