What Is the Dying Process Like in ALS?

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Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), is a degenerative disease of the neurological system that affects and decreases muscle function. Some cases may be hereditary, although the origin of most is unknown. The initial signs and symptoms of ALS are not severe. Muscular weakness and involuntary twitching are common in the early stages of the disease, as well as slurred speech.ALS advances fast, and there is no known cure for it. Within two to five years of their initial diagnosis, most ALS patients reach end-stage ALS and succumb to their condition. The following guide provides an overview of ALS stages of dying and what patients and their families should expect during ALS final stages.

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Is ALS Fatal?

Can you die from ALS? This is a common concern among patients and their loved ones. ALS can be fatal, and after a diagnosis, the average lifespan is three years. Although, some patients, such as Stephen Hawking, lived with the disease for an extended period. How long the end stage of ALS lasts differs from person to person.

Most people survive five years following their diagnosis, whereas 10% of those diagnosed live for ten years or more, and 5% of those diagnosed live for twenty or more. There is no definite answer to the question of how long you can live with ALS because the survival time is influenced by genetics, race, ethnicity, gender, and the age at which the patient was diagnosed.

ALS Signs of Impending Death

Hands, feet, and limbs are the most common places where ALS death symptoms begin to show before spreading across the body. Most ALS patients succumb to respiratory failure, which occurs when they are unable to obtain enough oxygen from their lungs into their bloodstreams. Patients who suffer from high amounts of carbon dioxide in their blood are more likely to fall asleep and remain asleep for extended periods. In many cases, people with ALS die peacefully as they sleep.

Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, is another potentially fatal sign of ALS. When the respiratory muscles are compromised due to pneumonia, it can result in respiratory failure and ultimately death.

7 Stages of ALS

The motor neurons in people with ALS will gradually advance through the seven stages below. It eventually impairs a person’s ability to walk, speak, write, and breathe, shortening their lifespan.

Early Stage

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The early symptoms of ALS, such as muscle weakness, rigidity, tightness, and cramping, can be used to diagnose the disease. When a person is around 50 or 60 years old, these signs usually appear. Over time, the person with ALS begins to lose their motor skills, leading to problems holding objects, tripping, and speaking. There is no discomfort in the early stages of ALS in most cases since symptoms appear gradually as the disease progresses. This stage occurs most of the time before the doctor makes a diagnosis.

Diagnosis Stage

The doctor’s diagnosis is the second stage. The indications are evident at this point, and the muscular weakness begins to extend to numerous sections of the body. In any case, most persons with ALS maintain a high mental and cognitive capacity. They are particularly aware of their body’s loss of muscle capacity as the ALS stages develop.

Second Region Involvement

The majority of voluntary muscles are paralyzed at this level. The muscles in the lungs are responsible for breathing in, and the doctor describes the various problems that the patient can face. Breathing out will be severely affected and compromised as well.

In addition, certain muscles become paralyzed, while others that aren’t used become permanently shortened. This is called contracture, and it stops joints like elbows from fully straightening.

Muscle weakness can also make eating and swallowing harder and increase the danger of choking. Some ALS patients in this stage may spontaneously burst out laughing or crying, with no apparent cause, a phenomenon known as the pseudobulbar affect (PBA).

Third Region Involvement

The involvement of the third region is the fourth stage of ALS. As the patient’s health worsens, their ability to move becomes severely limited. They may require the assistance of a healthcare expert or anyone else to deal with their personal needs.

In the middle stages of the disease, ALS patients have chronic headaches, weariness, and helplessness in the face of pneumonia. At times, there will be linguistic disorientation, and eating and drinking through the mouth will become difficult. Furthermore, respiratory failure can occur in the middle stages of the disease and is one of the leading causes of death in this situation.

Gastrostomy Stage

The fifth stage involves gastronomy since the muscles, particularly the mouth and throat muscles, are paralyzed.

Furthermore, dysphagia becomes a big concern for those with this illness, making it extremely difficult to consume food and other essential liquids orally. Individuals with severe dysphagia face weight loss, swallowing difficulty, and respiratory difficulties.

Doctors usually recommend a gastrostomy feeding procedure for patients with severe dysphagia to provide enough nutritional support. Furthermore, this feeding approach can help persons with ALS improve their survival rate, health outcomes, and quality of life. This therapeutic method also ensures that the patient receives adequate hydration.

Late Stage

The sixth stage is commonly referred to as the late or end-stage of ALS. Because most voluntary muscles are paralyzed, even breathing muscles become more vulnerable. The body loses the ability to receive enough oxygen to breathe. As a result, a doctor can offer oxygen via ventilators in the late and terminal stages.

Death Stage

Death is the last and final stage of ALS. A patient eventually dies from a lack of oxygen and the inability to function lung muscles. The most common cause of ALS death is respiratory failure, followed by pneumonia and cardiovascular complications.

Individuals with ALS and their loved ones can benefit from hospice care, which focuses on giving comfort and preserving the quality of life by addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Schedule a free phone consultation with All American Hospice if you want some more information on hospice care for ALS.

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