Tips For Fostering Good Mental Health For Patients With ALS
Pegasus Home Health Care is recognized as an industry leader due to the consistently high-quality care we provide. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have always been part of our core values. The variety of our clients and the professionals who assist them have contributed to our success.
Pegasus in-home nurses in Highland Park and elsewhere enable patients to live safely at home. They know that well-being includes more than physical care. Career home health care nurses offer tips for fostering good mental health for patients with ALS.
You may have a patient who says they have Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig was a famed baseball player who died from the debilitating condition medically known as ALS. ALS is the acronym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
What Is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
ALS is the progressive destruction of motor neurons. The brain is no longer able to communicate with the spinal cord. The spinal cord loses the ability to communicate with muscles within the body.
As the disease progresses, muscles atrophy and movement stop. Individuals become unable to eat, move, or speak unaided. Eventually, they can no longer breathe without assistance.
Statistically, “every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with the disease.” And every 90 minutes, someone dies of ALS. Most individuals who develop ALS are between “the ages of 40 and 70.”
The average age is 55. If your patient is younger, they are more likely to be a woman than a man. The gender difference fades in older adults.
What Causes ALS?
For reasons yet unknown, veterans are more likely to develop ALS than non-veterans. In fact, the cause of most cases of ALS is unknown. Approximately 10% are linked to genetics.
Currently, there isn’t a definitive test for ALS. Physicians start with tests to eliminate other neurological conditions. If the symptoms are not due to other diseases, the diagnosis is confirmed by physical exams.
There is no cure yet. Early treatment is essential. Treatment can’t reverse the destruction of the neurons, but it can slow the progression.
What Are The Symptoms Of ALS?
The symptoms vary from individual to individual. But in general, the symptoms reflect increasing muscle weakness. Your patient may experience:
- Changes in their behavior or cognitive ability.
- Cramps and uncontrollable twitching, usually in their upper body.
- Mobility issues, such as tripping, falling, and difficulty walking.
- Weakness in their limbs.
- Mouth and throat difficulties, such as slurred speech and inability to swallow.
- Pseudobulbar, which is unwanted or excessive emotional outbursts, usually at inappropriate times.
The symptoms all worsen over time.
Your patients eventually need breathing devices, must use technology to communicate, and require a feeding tube. Some patients also cope with difficulty in making decisions and memory loss. Others may develop frontotemporal dementia.
Despite their symptoms, ALS does not affect your patient’s five senses. Remind family members that their loved one can still hear, see, smell, taste, and touch. Although some have cognitive issues, as noted above, most are aware of their progressive loss of abilities.
Your patient’s understanding of the nature of their condition can lead to anxiety or depression. Because symptoms can vary, patients often struggle with stress caused by uncertainty and lack of control over what’s happening. Their family members frequently experience many of the same emotions due to the diagnosis.
How To Focus On Your Patient’s Mental Health
Your Pegasus team members help with your patient’s mental health as well as their physical condition. Your team should include the following:
- Faith-based or spiritual guide
- Medical social worker
- Occupational, physical, respiratory, and speech therapists
- Psychologist, psychiatrist, and neuropsychologist counselors
You will also work with physicians and other medical specialists to keep your patient comfortable. Your expertise in designing and maintaining the care plan will reduce stress for your patient.
As an in-home nurse, you offer your patients:
- Medical care
Your care is personal, and you recognize your patient as an individual, not a diagnosis. Teach the family that their loved one is still the same person they always were. Although ALS affects nearly all aspects of life for the family, focusing on the person, not the disease, is essential.
Clinical trials are potentially helping others with ALS and can give meaning to what is happening to them.
ALS patients can feel alone, and many self-isolate. Sharing their feelings with others can be helpful. A sampling of online and in-person support groups include:
Some Individuals may enjoy listening to the Connecting ALS podcasts.
Join Pegasus And Make A Difference
Pegasus in-home nurses in Highland Park and our other locations help individuals live independently at home. They customize their assistance to meet each patient’s needs. Career home health care nurses strive to keep their ALS patients physically comfortable while improving their mental health.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. We offer our professionals opportunities for personal and professional growth. We’re an equal opportunity employer, and we invite you to join us.