Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a condition that primarily affects the nervous system, causing voluntary muscles to become paralyzed and leading to complete physical disability.
Until about 15 years ago, doctors believed that ALS only caused physical symptoms and did not affect thinking. They thought this despite the fact that cognitive and behavioral changes were recorded in people with the disease back to the 1800s. In recent years, doctors have come to accept that some people with ALS do experience changes in their thinking and behavior.
How Common are Cognitive and Behavior Changes with ALS?
Research shows that about half of all people diagnosed with ALS experience changes in thinking and behavior. These changes are more than what you would expect just from receiving a difficult diagnosis. 25 percent of people who have cognitive and behavioral changes will go on to develop full-blown dementia.
One thing family caregivers should know is that doctors may talk about these changes in terms of “impairment” and “dementia.” Impairment is the term used when changes are evident, but they are not significant enough to interfere with the person being able to do their regular activities. Dementia is used to describe someone who is acting and thinking differently than normal for them and is unable to complete daily activities on their own.
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of cognitive and behavioral changes vary from one person to the next. What your older family member experiences may not be the same as another ALS patient. However, some common symptoms to watch for are:
- Lack of interest in normal activities and withdrawal from people and conversations.
- Not showing emotions.
- Embarrassing, childlike behaviors.
- Saying things they wouldn’t normally say, sometimes referred to as “losing their filter.”
- Making poor judgments.
- Saying “no” when they mean to say “yes.”
- Less attention to personal hygiene.
- Mood swings.
- Memory loss.
- Difficulty with language, including written language.
How is Dementia in ALS Treated?
In treating dementia, doctors seek to alleviate the symptoms because it cannot be cured. Doctors will likely prescribe a variety of medications depending on your older family member’s specific symptoms. In addition to specifically treating dementia, some of the medications used to slow the progression of ALS itself may also slow memory loss.
Elder care can assist older adults living with ALS and cognitive or behavioral changes. An elder care provider can offer supervision to keep the senior safe when they might make poor decisions or do unsafe things. Elder care can also remind them when it is time to take medications. In addition to helping with cognitive issues, an elder care provider can also help with daily activities that become difficult or impossible because of physical symptoms, such as dressing, bathing, and eating.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Senior Care in Springfield, PA, please talk to the caring staff at Better Care Home Health Services LLC today. Serving individuals and their families in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks counties. Call Today: (267) 766-5218