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.
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.
- 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.