May is ALS Awareness Month, a great time to get involved in the fight against ALS. In an earlier blog post, we told you a little about how you can be a voice for families living with an ALS diagnosis by becoming an ALS Advocate. This week, we want to introduce you to some other ways you can have some fun and make a difference!
ALS Advocates Will Make Their Voices Heard
Tomorrow, more than five hundred advocates will gather on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. for National ALS Advocacy Day. ALS advocates from all around the country will meet with members of Congress to share their stories and educate legislators about the importance of continued funding for ALS research and patient care.
Through the efforts of ALS Advocates, more than $1 billion in federal funding has been generated for ALS-specific research since 1998. In fact, ALS Advocacy efforts have been responsible for many legislative victories, including securing veterans benefits, enacting the ALS Registry Act, appropriating funding for caregiver relief and the ALS Research Program at the Dept. of Defense, and passing the Medicare waiver.
Caregiver Confidential: Say What?
During your loved one’s journey with ALS, did friends, coworkers, or medical professionals make well-meaning but insensitive comments? Even the most well-intentioned person can utter inappropriate “words of encouragement” and behave in a hurtful manner. Being around terminal illness can make people uncomfortable, and as a result, they unintentionally say the exact wrong thing. As a caregiver, it’s not uncommon to hear, “It’s God’s will,” “Things happen for a reason,” “I don’t know how you do it,” “I know how you feel,” and “Aren’t you relieved that it is all over?”, among others. Isn’t it preferable to be a good listener, do a helpful chore for the family, or give a hug, which are true expressions of kindness and compassion?
The ALS Association’s Research Program
The ALS Association’s global research program, TREAT ALS (Translational Research Advancing Therapies for ALS), has remained at the forefront of ALS research since its inception in 1985. We are the largest private funder of ALS research worldwide, and our efforts have led to some of the most promising and significant advances in ALS research. Our approach is global – the world is our lab – enabling us to fund the top ALS researchers worldwide and ensure that the most promising research continues to be supported. We fund projects across the research pipeline, from basic research through clinical trials, and our support has led to several potential treatments currently in clinical trials. Since the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, we have tripled the amount we spend in research every year- from $6 million to over $18 million – and we are committed to maintaining – and even increasing – this level.
Coping with the “New Normal” after an ALS Diagnosis
Everyone responds differently when life throws him or her a curve ball, and an ALS diagnosis might be the fastest curve ball life has to offer. Some respond by “hitting that ball back” and go on with life fairly quickly, while others may need more time to adjust to the news and come up with a plan. There is no right or wrong way to feel when faced with this diagnosis.
Most of us have heard about the stages of acceptance, grief and loss. These stages describe different reactions one might have, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and ending with acceptance. Acceptance does not mean giving up on hopes or dreams. It should be the first step in making the most of life with ALS. There is much to be done to help someone live a fuller and enjoyable life.
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The National ALS Registry
The National ALS Registry is the single largest ALS research project ever created and the only population-based registry in the U.S. The registry collects information and demographics on people with ALS, connects patients to clinical trials, and funds ALS research. The purpose of the registry is to learn more about who gets ALS and what causes ALS. This will hopefully give scientists a more complete understanding of the disease and enable them to find a cure.
Living with ALS: Keep Your World Large
By Julia Henderson-Kalb, OTD OTR/L and Elissa Held Bradford, PT, PhD, NCS
What do you want to be able to do in a day? What activities are important to you? Everyone craves activity. It is part of our human experience (1). However, oftentimes when people are diagnosed with a disease like ALS, their world tends to shrink. They might isolate themselves, stay at home the majority of the time, and stop doing the things they love to do in exchange for activities that aren’t very meaningful to them, like watching TV for hours on end. As part of the therapy team at Saint Louis University’s ALS Certified Center of Excellence, one of our priorities is to help people diagnosed with ALS understand how to keep their world LARGE so that they can enjoy meaningful activity for as long as possible.
Technologies That Make Life Easier for Caregivers
By June Duncan
Assistive technologies for the disabled have come a long way since the advent of automated wheelchairs and hearing aids. Smart technology has opened a new world of possibilities for people with disabilities and those who care for them. Smartphones, tablets, and an ever-growing list of apps are helping the disabled improve mobility, communication capabilities, speech, and vision. One of the greatest benefits is the ability to foster better communication between the disabled and their caregivers. Today, technology enables disabled persons to care for themselves more effectively, which makes things easier on caregivers, who often suffer from fatigue and burnout. Technology also helps give disabled persons more independence and a greater sense of confidence and control over their own environment.
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Caregiver Confidential: It Takes a Village
While reading online the other day, I came across a popular saying that I hadn’t seen in a while: “It takes a village.” Although familiar with its general meaning, which refers to the communal raising of children, in a broader context, can’t the concept of a “village” also apply to caregiving for a loved one with a terminal illness? Doesn’t it take many individuals—caregivers, medical and social services professionals, friends, and family members, all working together—to provide the best possible care for an ALS patient?
Understanding Insurance and Benefits When You Have ALS
Navigating the maze of health insurance is challenging for anyone and can be particularly overwhelming for people with ALS. We’ve compiled some tips and information that may help save you time and energy spent figuring out the complicated web of insurance benefits.
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