CHARLOTTE, NC: One of the key aspects of dealing with the limited mobility of ALS is to have a firm exercise goal. ALS patients are usually keenly aware of their surroundings and gradually take precautions not to turn too quickly. They pay attention to potential hazards such as rugs and other household items that can cause them to stumble. One of the primary problems, which is often difficult for healthy aide givers to grasp, is the degree to which an ALS patient is affected.
One person may suffer comparatively mild complications while another can be almost completely incapacitated.
Secondarily, the limited mobility of ALS sufferers varies widely in the range of the affliction. For some, ALS may affect their arms. For others it may be limitations of the legs or eating, swallowing or even speaking.
Such conditions can make it hard for caregivers to pinpoint precisely how to respond to each individual’s conditions.
Battling the limited mobility of ALS patients with exercise
As medical awareness of the disease increases, so, too, does the range of techniques for keeping patients independent for as long as possible:
Exercise can be good for maintaining maximum mobility, but if done incorrectly or excessively, exercise can also be harmful.
One solution is to ask a physiotherapist for advice about beneficial exercises as opposed to those which can be a potential problem.
Flexibility training is usually a good way to proceed initially. Range of motion (ROM) exercises will prevent joints from getting stiff.
Strengthening exercises, balance training, and specific aerobic exercises that have been customized to an individual’s needs are also helpful.
ALS professionals do not like to see weight loss in their patients because it may be a sign that their muscles are in decline from lack of use. Strength, therefore, an important thing for patients to maintain as long as possible.
Balancing ALS with mobility a strong exercise goal
Most ALS victims have little or no trouble recognizing problems with balance. In many cases, balance is typically affected by light. It is considerably easier to maneuver in a brightly illuminated environment than one that is dark.
This is even true for healthy patients. Test yourself by standing straight and staring at the wall. Chances are you will have little difficulty keeping your balance. Now close your eyes and repeat the process. After several seconds, most people will find themselves leaning to one side or the other.
Keeping mobility and balance through exercise
To decrease the effects of the limited mobility of ALS patients can perform exercises in three ways. The first is independently or without assistance. It is wise to learn which drills are most practical for the patient’s specific requirements, however. Always think about safety.
Second is active-assist drills where a helper spots the patient, offering aid when necessary. Finally, there are exercises where a caregiver supports and moves the patient’s limbs entirely. As movement slowly becomes more difficult an occupational therapist can guide a patient about obtaining a cane or a walker.
Getting around the house may later require ramps, railings and/or stair lifts to allow greater accessibility.
Eventually, a power-assisted wheelchair might become a necessity, which carries its own home adaptations.
The best piece of advice given to us upon my ALS diagnosis was to anticipate the need for anything and everything before you actually need it. That way you will be prepared for the worst eventuality whenever it arrives.
It is not uncommon to go to bed one night only to discover that you have lost another physical skill while you were sleeping.
Assistive technologies not only aid in helping patients maintain their mobility, there is also equipment available which can improve what were once routine tasks such as getting dressed and dental hygiene.
As ALS progresses, patients quickly discover that their lives require considerably more time to consider performing tasks that most people don’t even think about in their daily routines. As the day goes on, such perpetual considerations can be exhausting for patients who must now weigh every action before they undertake it.
It’s not a pleasant thing to think about. Especially if you used to be active and enjoyed being outdoors working in the garden, fishing, playing golf or any number of other activities.
ALS will, indeed, force a person to create exercise goals. First and foremost is to “exercise your options” and then dare to “go out on a limb” to try them.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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