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The Facts About ALS and Hospice Care

By March 28, 2022July 7th, 2023No Comments
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ALS eventually causes an inability to speak, eat, move and breathe. Hospice for ALS provides relief and comfort to those in the end stages of this incurable disease.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. The nerves responsible for voluntary motor movements lose their function and die. As they do, the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movements like walking and talking.

With ALS, the symptoms begin gradually and can vary from person to person, depending on the nerves initially affected. Symptoms often begin with weakness in one limb. As they become more widespread, they can include difficulty walking, tripping, falling, slurred speech, excessive choking, weakness, fatigue, and muscle cramps.

ALS symptoms worsen over time. As more and more nerves are affected, more and more functions become impaired. Eventually, all cases result in near total paralysis and an inability to speak, eat, move, and even breathe. Patients with ALS rely 100% on others for help with normal daily activities.

How do I Treat ALS?

Therapies for ALS target symptom management. Depending on the extent of ALS, these could include treating the following:

  • Sialorrhea (excessive salivation or drooling)
  • Pain
  • Muscle cramps and spasticity
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Fatigue
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapies can help a patient adapt to communication and physical limitations due to ALS.

While some drug treatments have shown benefit in delaying physical decline, there are no treatments to reverse the neural damage. Ultimately, ALS is fatal.

When does a Person with ALS Qualify for Hospice?

The first factor that establishes hospice eligibility is the ability to breathe. A patient must show critical impairment in their breathing by having a vital capacity (max volume that can be exhaled) of less than 30% predicted or by experiencing dyspnea at rest. 

A patient also may qualify for hospice if they have a rapid progression of the disease. This is demonstrated by any of the following changes over a 12-month period:

  • Progression from walking to wheelchair to bed bound
  • Normal speech to barely intelligible speech
  • Normal to pureed diet
  • Independence to reliance for activities of daily living

This rapid progression, along with either a critical nutritional impairment or other life-threatening complications would make a person eligible for hospice.

Managing ALS with Active Hospice

Remember, hospice is not a bad thing. It is not giving up nor does it speed up the dying process. Hospice takes the focus away from the disease process and puts the focus back on you as a person. 

The best news is that good ALS treatment is what hospice is best at. ALS treatment is symptom based and that doesn’t change with hospice. We will continue to provide the best possible treatment of all your symptoms. On top of that, our team will address your emotional, spiritual, and social needs as well. 

Some of the benefits from managing your ALS with Active Hospice include:

  • Continued symptom management 
  • Improved pain control
  • Improved hydration and nutrition
  • Better end of life planning
  • Assistance with everyday tasks
  • Prevention of bed sores
  • Emotional support for you and your family
  • Bereavement services for loved ones
  • Care from the comfort of your home

Why Choose Active Hospice?

Active Hospice’s goal is to help you and your loved ones get the sense of closure that everyone wants at the end of life. We focus on avoiding a prolonged dying experience. This allows us to give you the chance to have an improved quality of life, better control over those end of life decisions, and improved comfort care. Our end of life care plans create opportunities for lasting memories and more enjoyable moments. If you or a loved one are struggling with ALS, give Active Hospice a call and schedule your free, in-home consultation today.


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