It’s a real challenge to take care of an elderly loved one with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. While a diagnosis of ALS is something that will certainly change the lives of the aging adult as well as their family caregiver, there’s a lot of resources and adaptive technology out there that can make living with the disease much better.
Family Caregivers Should Learn About ALS
The first thing that family caregivers should learn about is the symptoms of the disease and what aging at home with ALS will require. Early symptoms include muscle spasms, lack of strength, problems swallowing, slurred speech, weakness and fatigue.
As the disease progresses and further disrupts the body’s ability to control muscles, aging adults must transition to a wheelchair and often need a ventilator to help with proper breathing. When family caregivers understand the progression of the disease and the symptoms that every stage brings, they’ll be better off knowing how to help their aging loved one.
Tap into Community Resources
There are many resources available to seniors with ALS and their family caregivers, and because it is such a difficult disease to live with, it’s important that they get all the knowledge they can. Community resources can include clinics, hospitals, senior centers and state and national ALS organizations. Family caregivers can learn about the latest treatment options, helpful assistive devices, caregiver support groups and much more. The demands of caring for an aging adult with ALS are many, but with the right resources, it can be made easier for all.
Build a Support Group
Seniors with ALS must have a lot of assistance in maintaining their overall health, their treatment plan and their mental health. Family caregivers need to build a support group that meets every need. This group usually includes doctors, neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, respiratory therapists, homecare providers, and family members. With support from those who can help with both medical issues and caregiving, the family caregiver can ensure their aging loved one has the best care.
Arrange for Respite Care
Because seniors with ALS need care around the clock, it’s easy for family caregivers to get burned out. Hiring homecare providers to do some of the most basic daily tasks can give family caregivers a much-needed break. When family caregivers manage to find time to take care of their own needs, such as socializing, exercising and more, they don’t experience as much chronic stress. Homecare providers can help seniors bathe, get dressed, and get ready for the day. They can also assist with light housekeeping, laundry and companionship.
When an aging relative has ALS, it’s definitely something that is life-changing, not just for the elderly adult but for their family members. However, there are many wonderful times ahead with friends and family as long as seniors have the loving care and support they need during their illness.