Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) affects around 30,000 people in the United States.
Approximately 5,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed every year. Typically, people are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70. The disease has no cure and is progressive, meaning it gets worse as time goes on. ALS affects a person’s ability to live independently, eventually confining them to a wheelchair or bed. Most ALS patients eventually also lose the ability to speak. Yet, their minds are unaffected, making the inability to communicate very frustrating. However, even without speech, there are ways caregivers can help people with ALS to make their thoughts and wishes known. Below are some tips to help family caregivers to communicate more effectively with a family member who has ALS.
Choose the Right Environment
For ALS patients who still have the ability to speak, the act of speaking can be exhausting. It can be even more tiring if they feel they need to talk over background noise and other conversations. Caregivers can help by turning off the television, radio, or other things that make noise. Caregivers can also help the person to move to a quieter room.
Slow Down the Conversation
Speaking rapidly or at a normal pace can cause words to be unclear because the muscles don’t work well. Caregivers can encourage their family member to slow down and articulate as clearly as possible. It’s important that listeners be patient and allow the ALS patient as much time as needed to express themselves.
Allow Periods of Rest Before Conversation
If you are aware that someone will be calling to speak with your family member or if someone will be visiting, encourage them to rest for a while beforehand. Let them sit quietly without talking so that the muscles involved in speaking are rested.
Talk to the Doctor About Augmented Speech
There are ways to communicate without speaking, such as using signs or pointing at a letter board. There are even electronic devices that can follow eye movement and speak for the person, such as the device used by the late scientist Steven Hawking. Family caregivers can talk to the person’s doctor or another member of the medical team about options.
Sit Face to Face
It can be difficult for caregivers to understand what a person with ALS is saying. Try sitting facing the person so that you can hear them better since they may speak quietly. Looking at them while they are talking can also help you to use non-verbal cues and lip movement to better understand.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering Home Care Services in Glencoe, IL, call the caring staff at LifeCare Home Health & In-Home Services. Call (888) 606-4199 LifeCare serves all of the Chicago Metro Area.
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