How ALS Can Affect Thinking

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In the past, doctors believed that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) affected only muscles. They did not believe it impacted the brain. However, today, experts recognize the fact that some people with ALS also experience cognitive changes. Around 50 percent of people with ALS will have at least some changes in their thinking and behavior. 25 percent develop dementia.

Senior Care in Coconut Creek FL: ALS Can Affect Thinking
Senior Care in Coconut Creek FL: ALS Can Affect Thinking

Risk Factors for ALS with Cognitive Changes or Dementia

Currently, scientists don’t agree on whether ALS is the cause of the cognitive problems or if it is a disease that happens alongside dementia. However, some possible risk factors have been identified. They include:

  • Being between 55 and 65 years of age.
  • Having a family history of dementia.
  • Having a specific kind of ALS, called bulbar-onset disease.
  • Neurologic injury prior to having ALS.

Some people develop cognitive changes or dementia even if they don’t have any of these risk factors.

Kinds of Changes That May Occur

Not everyone will have the same kinds of cognitive changes, but some common changes are:

  • Acting childish or doing things that are inappropriate and embarrassing.
  • Losing their “filter” and saying things they would not have said in the past.
  • Changes in eating, like suddenly eating sweets or wanting to eat only one kind of food.
  • Not paying attention to personal hygiene.
  • Making poor decisions or decisions that go against previously held beliefs.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Becoming fixated on an idea or activity.
  • Aggressiveness.
  • Responding “no” when they mean to say “yes.”
  • Changes in speech, such as using words out of order, saying things that don’t make sense, or forgetting what words mean.

Tips for Coping with Cognitive Changes

Being a caregiver to someone with ALS is difficult on its own, but when cognitive changes occur, the job is even more complex. Family caregivers can support their loved ones by using these tips recommended by the ALS Association:

  • Learn as much about ALS as you can.
  • Speak in a simplified manner. Speak slowly and use shorter sentences. Ask yes or no questions.
  • Attend appointments with the person so that you can be sure the information you receive is correct.
  • Inform and educate others about the cognitive issues the person has and how they can best interact.

Elder care can also help people with ALS and cognitive changes. Elder care providers can assist with things the person cannot do because of the physical symptoms of the disease, such as helping them to dress, bathe, or use the bathroom. Elder care providers can also help with communication, such as by helping visitors to understand the best way to interact with your loved one.

If you or a family member are in need of Senior Care in Coconut Creek, FL, call the caring professionals at Star Multi Care today at (954) 870-4770. Providing service in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Weston, Southwest Ranches, Pembroke Pines, Cooper City, Lighthouse Point, and Wilton Manors.


About the author: Stephen Sternbach
Stephen Sternbach has been the Chairman of the Board of Directors, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Star Multi Care Services since 1987. After the sale of the New York and New Jersey operations of Star Multi Care Services, Sternbach brought the company private where he remains President and CEO of this newly developed $22M home healthcare company. With Sternbach at the helm, Star Multi Care Services employs more than 550 employees, in six offices throughout Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. From 1978 to 1986, Sternbach was associated with Automated Data Processing, Inc. (“ADP”)–a provider of information services, where he held several marketing positions before becoming the Director of Sales. 1999-2008 Sternbach was an active participant on the Board of Directors for Proginet–a computer software company based in Garden City, New York. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Long Island Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society from 1996-2002. In 1996, Stephen Sternbach was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young, Paine Webber and NASDAQ. Sternbach was also named in Crain’s New York Business Article, “40 Under 40” Successful Business Executives/Future Business Leaders in 1995. While maintaining a diversity of business and personal interests, Sternbach concentrated most of his efforts over the past 28 years towards continuously improving the quality of services delivered by the Star Multi Care Services’ family of companies. Stephen Sternbach holds a Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University – Maxwell School of Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Relations and Personnel Administration from Ithaca College.