During the summer of 2014, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) gained attention via social media thanks to the "ice bucket challenge." The ice bucket challenge took the internet by storm, with more than 17 million people participating and uploading videos to Facebook, according to the ALS Association. Not only did this challenge raise awareness for ALS, but it also helped to generate funds for scientists currently researching the disease.
Although the ice bucket challenge was undoubtedly beneficial to the ALS community, it isn't the only way to help. In fact, nurses are already helping patients with ALS daily.
ALS is a progressive disease that was first discovered in the late 1800s. This disease affects the nerve cells that make up the spinal cord and brain. As it worsens, the motor neurons die, leading to a loss of muscle control. Eventually, patients become paralyzed. Death from this condition occurs approximately three to five years after the onset of symptoms.
Researchers are continuously searching for effective ALS treatments. At this time, however, the progression of the disease cannot be reversed. Treatments focus primarily on helping patients maintain their independence for as long as possible.
How Nurses Help
Nurses play an important role in the care of individuals with ALS. Some ways nurses are helping these patients and their families include:
Providing care to patients - Patients with ALS require intensive care as they battle their disease. Treatment protocols may include nutritional support, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, breathing care and more. Nurses are actively involved in administering and/or overseeing all of these therapies.
Providing support to patients - Dealing with a diagnosis of ALS is difficult for patients. Nurses provide emotional support as patients seek to understand their diagnosis and live with their condition.
Providing support to family members - Watching a family member battle ALS can be traumatic. Nurses support the families of ALS patients, helping them cope with their loved one's illness and learn to act as an effective caregiver when appropriate.
Helping patients maintain their independence - Nurses provide treatments and therapies to patients in order to help them maintain their independence for as long as possible, even in the face of this devastating illness.
Looking for new ways to help ALS patients - Nurses are on the forefront of the search for more effective therapies for ALS.
Scientists may find a cure for ALS in the future. For now, however, nurses are doing what they can to help these patients enjoy their lives as much as possible.