Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that impacts a person’s ability to control voluntary muscle movements. The nerve cells needed to move muscles die off over time, causing the person to lose more and more control over their bodies. ALS can strike adults of any age, including seniors. Eventually, it causes the person to require assistance to perform any action, including the simplest of tasks. It’s a dire diagnosis, but it doesn’t mean that your aging relative has to give up on life. Instead, there are many things that can be done to help them live better while coping with ALS. Below are some helpful tips.
Work with an Occupational Therapist
Ask the doctor to refer the older adult to an occupational therapist to learn ways to continue doing some tasks for as long as possible. The occupational therapist can show them alternative ways to do things and recommend tools and devices to help them. Some tools and devices they may recommend include:
- Button hooks to make dressing easier.
- Key holders.
- Specially made utensils with thicker handles or adaptive devices for regular utensils.
- Bathtub transfer seats.
- Plate guards that prevent food from being pushed off the side of the plate, making it easier to pick up with a fork.
- Hand or leg splints.
- Neck supports.
Start an Exercise Program
Although exercising won’t prevent the disease from progressing, it can allow the older adult to maintain control of their muscles for longer. Of course, before beginning an exercise program, the older adult should speak with their doctor about what is appropriate given their overall health. While the senior is still able to walk and can balance, walking is a good choice for exercise. They might also use a recumbent bicycle.
Plan to Get Durable Medical Equipment
As ALS progresses, the older adult will require more kinds of equipment. The senior’s health team should be able to assist with purchasing or renting necessary equipment, so start the conversation early. Some equipment that may be needed is:
- Motorized wheelchair.
- Hospital bed.
- Manual lift.
Involve Elderly Care
Having an elderly care provider to assist them can be a big help to older adults with ALS as well as their family members. Elderly care providers can help with non-medical tasks, such as assisting the senior to dress, bathe, or use the toilet. An elderly care provider can also help to clean the house, prepare meals, and do laundry. In addition, elderly care providers can be a source of comfort and companionship that lifts the older adult’s spirits.