If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), you’re probably aware that the disease will affect their ability to move their muscles. Eventually, the disease will rob them of the freedom to walk, use their hands, and it may even make them unable to communicate verbally. What you may not know is that ALS can also affect cognitive, or thinking, abilities.
Studies on ALS and the Brain.
In the past, doctors were trained to treat ALS as a disease that only affects the body, not the mind. However, in the last 10 years, research has indicated that the disease also has an impact on the brain. In fact, about 50 percent of people diagnosed with ALS will experience at least mild cognitive problems. Around 20 percent develop dementia.
Studies have also shown that some people with ALS exhibit behavioral problems. And, the problems can happen with or without the presence of cognitive issues. In one study involving 355 people, 103 had behavior problems as well as cognitive issues. Another 23 people had behavioral problems but did not have difficulties with cognition.
Behavioral and Cognitive Symptoms.
ALS can be somewhat unpredictable in that not everyone with the disease has the same symptoms. Some of the symptoms that you might notice are:
- Childish or inappropriate behavior.
- Making embarrassing comments, which might be described as “losing their filter.”
- Changes in eating patterns, such as craving sweets or wanting only one kind of food or stuffing their mouth when they eat.
- Failure to take care of personal hygiene.
- Making poor judgements.
- Difficulty concentrating or switching attention to something else.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Saying “no” when they mean to say “yes.”
- Saying words in the wrong order.
- Trouble remembering what they wanted to do.
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your family member, report them to the doctor. The symptoms may be due to the disease itself, but they could also be caused by other things, such as lack of oxygen because of difficulty breathing or a side effect of medications.
Being an ALS caregiver is extremely hard even when there are no cognitive or behavioral problems. When these problems occur, the job is even tougher. One way to lessen the load placed on family caregivers is to hire a professional elderly care provider to help. Elderly care providers can help with nearly everything family members can, including dressing, bathing, and eating. Elderly care providers can also assist with household tasks, such as laundry, cleaning, and meal preparation.
If you or someone you know needs elderly care in Blaine, MN, contact Prairie River Home Care. We provide quality and affordable home care services for many fragile or senior members in the communities we serve. Call us at (888) 660-5772 for more information.
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