Provide Better Care by Understanding the Stages of ALS


San Jose area caregivers from Visiting Angels can assist with ALS care.

Receiving a diagnosis of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) can bring up a lot of questions and concerns, for both the individual diagnosed and his or her family members. What’s the cause of ALS? What are the signs of ALS now, and how will they be changed in the years to come? Where can I go to find necessary support?

As many as 30,000 Americans are presently diagnosed with ALS, and about 5,600 new patients are diagnosed with the disease each year. And although the actual cause is not clear, some scientific studies point to confusing risk factors, such as a doubled risk of ALS in veterans who were in service during the Gulf War. 

Though each individual can experience ALS differently from others, the advancement of the disease does seem to follow specific stages. Comprehending these stages can assist those with ALS and those who care for them in implementing the most appropriate plan of care.

Early Stages

    • Symptoms of ALS may possibly be detected only in one specific area of the body
    • However, milder indicators may affect more than that one region
  • For some individuals, the first affected muscles are those used for speaking, swallowing or breathing

Possible Symptoms:

    • Poor balance
    • Lethargy
    • Slurring of speech
    • Weakened grip
  • Stumbling when walking

Middle Stages

    • Certain particular muscles may be paralyzed, while others are weaker or totally unaffected
    • Indicators of ALS are now more widespread
  • Twitching may be apparent

Possible Symptoms:

    • Difficulties in standing up without assistance
    • Challenges with eating and swallowing, which can lead to choking
    • Difficulty breathing, especially when lying down
  • Potential uncontrolled and inappropriate laughing or crying, known as the pseudobulbar affect (PBA)

Late Stages

    • The individual with ALS needs complete assistance to care for his/her needs
    • Speaking may no longer be possible
  • The person can no longer eat or drink by mouth

Possible Symptoms:

    • Paralysis in the majority of voluntary muscles
    • Breathing is severely compromised, resulting in lethargy, unclear thinking, headaches and susceptibility to pneumonia
  • Mobility is significantly impacted

Receiving care from a professional in-home caregiver, such as Visiting Angels, can improve quality of life for individuals during any stage of ALS. Our San Jose home health care team works with families to create an individualized plan of care, allowing those experiencing symptoms of ALS to maintain dignity and the highest possible level of independence at all times. Contact us online or call us at 408-610-9996 to learn more about our senior care services in San Jose and throughout Santa Clara County.