The Healthcare Providers Who Can Help You Manage ALS

Treatment for ALS involves working with different healthcare providers with different specialties.

Working with a multidisciplinary team to treat ALS means that each of your needs will be the primary focus of one specialist.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that can affect every aspect of a person’s physical and mental health—the way a person moves, the way they speak, their ability to chew, swallow, and breathe. Many people with ALS also experience depression and anxiety after the diagnosis or as the disease progresses, causing many to become withdrawn from friends and family.

There is no cure for ALS, but there are therapies that can help slow the progression of the disease and help people with ALS live better lives. Taking care of mental health is just as important as taking care of physical health. Ideally, people with ALS should work with what is called a multidisciplinary team—a group of healthcare providers with different specialties that are in communication with one another.

Working with a multidisciplinary team means that each of your needs will be the primary focus of one specialist. For instance, you might work with a provider who specializes in ALS, another provider whose focus is mental health, and a third provider who focuses on physical therapy.

This approach can maximize the benefit of treatment, give you access to plenty of information about your diagnosis, and provide the necessary support you need in order to maintain the best quality of life possible.

Members of a multidisciplinary team

Because ALS is a different experience for everyone, treatment will vary from person to person. You or your loved one’s treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis, your symptoms, your personal values and needs, as well as other factors.

Here is a look at some of the specialists people with ALS may work with:

  • Neurologist. Treatment is typically overseen by a neurologist, a healthcare provider that specializes in conditions that affect the nervous system.
  • Respiratory therapist. ALS can cause breathing difficulties, and a respiratory therapist can help address these difficulties.
  • Physical therapist. PTs can provide exercises to maintain muscle function as well as equipment to assist with daily activities.
  • Speech therapist. A speech therapist can help address challenges with swallowing and speech.
  • Occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can help with activities that require fine motor skills, like eating and brushing teeth.
  • Nutritionist. As the disease progresses, eating may become more difficult. A nutritionist can provide meal plans to meet nutritional needs.
  • Gastroenterologist. Can address any problems or symptoms related to digestion.
  • Psychologists and counselors. Anxiety and depression are common among people with ALS as well as family members and caregivers. Psychologists and counselors can help address the emotional and psychological impact of ALS.
  • At-home healthcare providers. Nurses and other professionals who visit the home to provide care and assist with treatment.
  • Palliative care provider. These are specialists who help with things like pain management, side effects of medication, and emotional support. They can also advocate for you or your loved one and help you make important decisions.
  • Social worker. A social worker can help you navigate different aspects of healthcare, such as finances, understanding benefits and insurance coverage, utilizing community resources, and providing or accessing counseling.
Article sources open article sources

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet."
ALS News Today. "Emotional and Mental Well-being."
ALS Association. "Including the Multidisciplinary Team in Your Care."
Lucas D. Driskell, Michele K. York, et al. "A Guide to Understanding the Benefits of a Multidisciplinary Team Approach to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Treatment." Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2018. Vol. 100, No. 3.
Anne Hogden, Geraldine Foley, et al. "Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: improving care with a multidisciplinary approach." Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 2017. Vol. 10.
Tanya Lewis. "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): Facts & Symptoms of Lou Gehrig's Disease." LiveScience. June 22, 2017.
Cleveland Clinic. "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)."
Jose Marques Lopes. "New Guide Provides Information on Benefits of Multidisciplinary Care for ALS Treatment." ALS News Today. July 20, 2018.

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