Minimizing ALS Fatigue and Stress
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, causing the muscles to stiffen, twitch, and weaken, with patients eventually losing the ability to speak, swallow, chew, walk, and breathe.
In nearly every case, the early stages of dealing with ALS will encompass handling fatigue caused by muscle weakness and spasticity. A family member caring for someone with ALS might notice their loved one slowing down in both body movement and speech; speaking at a lower volume, in a dull tone of voice, and in shorter responses; and exhibiting signs of irritability, anxiety, and crying. The patient might show less interest in activities they used to enjoy and want to spend more time alone.
Many different factors can worsen the symptoms of ALS fatigue, including immobility, overexertion, and a lack of sleep, as well as excessive weight loss and protein malnutrition. Mental distress, including stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and grief, can exacerbate fatigue, as can alcohol, smoking, and certain medications. Finally, a lack of assistance can come into play, whether it’s financial resources, help from loved ones, or an accessible living space free from stairs, long distances, and other hindrances.
Fortunately, these symptoms can be managed—and the patient’s quality of life can be improved. The ALS Association offers the following tips for managing ALS fatigue:
- Learn how to make every task easier, including through assistive devices like a motorized wheelchair, if necessary.
- Pace yourself: Move slowly and easily, take frequent breaks, don’t stand when you can sit, and obtain the assistance you need.
- Schedule regular rest periods throughout the day (such as after completing your getting-ready tasks in the morning and again in the early afternoon) and rest before leaving the home.
- Get a handicapped parking sticker; your physician can fill out the form you obtain from your local department of motor vehicles.
- Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern. If you wake up at night, speak with a family member, friend, or even your doctor for help in resolving the issues.
- Watch out for extreme temperatures, such as a long day in the sun or a long, hot bath, as these can worsen muscle fatigue.
- Consult with a dietician to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional requirements and preventing unnecessary weight loss.
- Avoid stressful situations, and make sure your family members know about your fatigue—that you’re not angry at them, you’re simply exhausted.
- If you feel weaker or have more difficulty breathing after taking a medication, talk to your doctor. You may be able to adjust your medication to lessen the fatigue.
- Increase the accessibility of your home, possibly by relocating a bed or personal items to a different room in the house.
Managing fatigue can make the difference between unnecessary suffering and the ability to enjoy life, your family, and your friends. If financial stress is contributing to your fatigue, Fifth Season may be able to help: Fifth Season’s Funds for Living Program allows clients with advanced stage illnesses to receive an advance on their life insurance policy while preserving funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future. If Fifth Season’s Funds For Living Program can help combat ALS fatigue, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.