Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neuromuscular disease that causes neurodegeneration of the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control the muscle movements of the body is lost.
Due to the documented sudden decline in function, a person with ALS can go from using a walker to needing a power mobility device very quickly.
Mobility and Assistive Technology Needs
Often, people with ALS require the assistance of power mobility very quickly due to the rapid progressive nature of the disease.
In the beginning stages of ALS, a client may require a power chair with a high-back support to assist with positioning and performance of Mobility Related Activities of Daily Living (MRADLs).
If the individual has adequate hand movement for controlling the power chair, then a joystick should be used since it provides the most direct control for driving a power base. It is often advised to provide a client with a hand controller that has switch jacks. As the user’s ability changes, switches can be added to operate on/off and mode operations.
As the disease progresses, the individual may find he or she has a limited amount of time during the day when a joystick can be operated. It is at this time that more advanced electronics, such as a mini-proportional joystick, head-array or chin control may need to be considered to operate the power chair.
The individual will most likely require the use of postural support components and power positioning functions to assist in pressure relief, postural realignment and function.
These components may also help with transfers, sitting tolerance and comfort. The power positioning options for consideration include power tilt and recline systems, power adjustable seat height, power articulating leg rests or a power articulating foot platform.
Providing a power base that can accept oxygen and eventually a ventilator is also very important.
Based on the mobility needs of an individual with ALS, they may benefit from a power base with the ability to accept full seating and positioning options, various drive controls, power positioning, and can accommodate a vent tray and oxygen holder.