Understanding the Stages of ALS and How to Care for Them

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Several pills and a needle lay on a table with ALS written in the middle to represent the stages of ALS.

While symptoms can vary from person to person, the stages of ALS tend to follow a particular pattern for all.

Receiving a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as ALS) can create plenty of questions and apprehensions, both for the individual diagnosed and their family. What’s the cause for ALS? What are the symptoms of ALS which may be experienced now, and how will they change in the future? Where can I go for support?

Approximately 30,000 people in America are presently diagnosed with ALS, and around 5,600 new patients are diagnosed with the illness every year. And although the specific cause is not yet determined, some studies point to complicated risk factors, such as a twofold risk of ALS in people who served during the Gulf War.

Though each individual can be impacted by ALS in different ways from others, the progression of the condition does seem to follow distinct stages. Understanding the stages of ALS can help those diagnosed with the disease and those who care for them execute the most appropriate plan of care.

San Diego Home Caregivers, the leading provider of home care services in San Diego, La Jolla, Point Loma, and the surrounding areas, shares details below:

Initial Stages of ALS

  • ALS signs may be detected in only one single area of the body
  • More mild symptoms may affect more than this one region
  • For some people, the first impacted muscles are those used for swallowing, breathing, or speaking
Possible Symptoms:
    • Weakened grip
    • Stumbling when walking
    • Fatigue
    • Poor balance
    • Slurring of speech

Middle Stages of ALS

  • Indicators of ALS are now more substantial
  • Twitching could be noticeable
  • Some specific muscles may be paralyzed, while others are weaker or totally unaffected
 Possible Symptoms:
    • Difficulties standing without support
    • Struggles with eating and swallowing, which can cause choking
    • Possible uncontrolled and inappropriate crying or laughing, known as the pseudobulbar affect (PBA)
    • Difficulty breathing, particularly when lying down

Late Stages of ALS

  • The person can no longer drink or eat by mouth
  • The person with ALS needs full assistance to care for their needs
  • Speaking may no longer be possible
Possible Symptoms:
    • Breathing is significantly affected, leading to fatigue, unclear thinking, headaches and vulnerability to pneumonia
    • Paralysis in the majority of voluntary muscles
    • Mobility is dramatically impacted

Obtaining care from a professional caregiver, like those at San Diego Home Caregivers, can increase the quality of life for people affected by ALS symptoms. Our care providers work with families to develop an individualized plan of care, allowing those with ALS to maintain dignity and the greatest level of independence at all times.

Contact us any time at (619) 487-9000 to learn more about how our services can help someone you love.