Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease prevalent among older adults. Due to its increasingly devastating effects on physical mobility and capacity, it is critical to manage relevant care solutions as the disease progresses. A trained healthcare professional will work with you to determine the details of this management, so prepare yourself for those conversations and decisions. This is what to expect from your ALS nursing care plan.
At its core, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis attacks the brain and spinal cord—the two components of the body’s central nervous system. The motor neuron damage causes muscles to atrophy and waste away due to lack of use and nourishment, eventually destroying voluntary muscle movement and leaving scar tissue behind. Sadly, these growing incapacitations typically result in complete paralysis. In light of these symptoms, people with ALS require attentive care every step of the way.
ALS is a ceaselessly progressive disorder that moves between discernable early, mid, and late stages. Various muscular and physical effects accompany each stage, so it is important to know how far along you or your loved one is in the process. Whatever the current symptomology is will impact the structure of the ALS nursing care plan.
Neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS typically act like a snowball rolling downhill. As they continue descending, snowballs increase in size and velocity, just as this disease increases in prevalence and incapacitation. If you or your loved one has ALS, the reality is that the snowball has already begun to descend the hill. However, there are ways to slow the roll, so to speak. Preventative actions and counteractive measures are a key part of an ALS nursing care plan. Though ALS attacks the body at a cellular level, it ultimately affects muscle strength and size. At the core of a care plan will be preventative measures that work to build muscle strength and reduce muscle loss. These measures will also work to improve mobility in important muscles and joints.
Building muscle strength and improving mobility is hard work, especially when patients are fighting against their own bodies. So, healthcare professionals will design a nursing care plan that involves physical therapy and routine exercises. These activities may be difficult at first, but the goal is the retention of strength and mobility, so the payoff will be significant. Expect your medical provider to outline a plan for strength building that involves the participation of able-bodied family members as well. Whether you are responsible to secure the right equipment or help your loved one with their daily exercises, the preventative work will not rest solely on the shoulder of medical professionals and the patient.
As ALS affects muscular development, it will cause a considerable amount of pain and discomfort for your loved one. Bodily treatment is another central part of the nursing care plan which will fight to manage the pain. Between professionally monitored prescriptions and pain management strategies, treating the body’s aches and pains is important to the overall success of a care plan. Due to the nature of the disease, ALS also results in skin breakdown that will require treatment of pressure sores—skin wounds that develop due to prolonged immobility and pressure between internal bones and outside surfaces.
Bodily treatment does not stop at medication and active wound care. ALS patients must also address respiratory strength and constipation problems. The muscular deterioration from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects body parts central to breathing. Patients must perform breathing exercises and, if the situation calls for it, use medical devices to help with breathing. At the other end of the body, people with ALS will have a difficult time defecating, so bodily treatment may include an increase in daily fiber intake.
When we speak, we utilize an array of muscles to move our mouths and shape our words. People with ALS progressively lose the ability to speak when their facial and neck muscles atrophy. Therefore, it is critical to preserve this function with speech therapy. Dysarthria, or the altered clarity of speech, impacts these people the most, so speech therapy works to clarify word sounds and mouth forms for maximal communication efficacy.
Eventually, people suffering from ALS will lose the ability to speak. So, speech therapy also trains them on how to use technology for communication including eye-motion sensitive computers that translate ocular movements into letters and words. Furthermore, speech therapy teaches ALS patients how to protect their airways while eating. Because they may lose control of certain gag, chewing, and swallowing reflexes, people with ALS need to know how to protect themselves.
At this point, you may realize the full extent of ALS care and how debilitating it truly is. The physical limitations and suffering of this prolonged disease will cause psychological harm and distress. So, mental health care is another crucial piece of the ALS nursing care plan. You must work to create a supportive environment between the patient and caregivers so you can appropriately address frustrations, outbursts, sadness, and a whole host of other emotions.
Grief counseling is helpful as well for all involved. Whether it is the patient grieving their loss of mobility or the family grieving the increasingly worsening disease, grief and loss are pillars of the ALS experience that everyone must acknowledge. All people cope with negative emotions and devastating news in different ways. The nursing care plan will encourage positive coping habits and address feelings of anxiety. Many plans will include referrals to other services such as psychological therapy, religious counseling, and caregiver support.
ALS care is a daily affair, addressing every aspect of a person from the physical to the psychological to the relational. Diseases such as this impact all facets of life, so prepare yourself for an immersive healthcare experience. Know what to expect from your ALS nursing care plan so you can take charge of your or your loved one’s healthcare. If you are looking for home health care in Seattle, Washington, reach out to our team at Fedelta Home Care for more information today. We can help you find the best care strategies for your ALS needs today.