August is National Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month, which spotlights the disease as well as all efforts to support victims and their family members, fundraising, and promotes awareness. In most communities, observation and awareness efforts include hosting awareness events at clinics and hospitals, sharing stories within the community, and using social media to raise awareness. For family caregivers that have an elderly relative with spinal muscular atrophy, SMA Awareness Month can be a real support.
What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Seniors?
Spinal muscular atrophy, known as SMA, is a genetic disease that affects a person’s muscles. While it is most common in early childhood, Type IV of the condition can develop in aging adults. With SMA, seniors gradually lose control over some of their muscle groups, which leads to a loss of control over some basic functions like grasping, reaching, walking, swallowing and breathing. To date, there is no cure for SMA.
With aging adults, it’s inevitable that they will need in-home care as their symptoms increase. Symptoms include mild breathing issues, muscle weakness, twitching, and tremors. When the disease manifests in older adults, it is often more severe in men than women because it is a genetic illness linked to the X chromosome.
Caring for Seniors with Spinal Muscular Atrophy
When it comes to living with SMA, most elderly adults need some regular help for basic tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Family caregivers can take on this role if possible, also assisting with housekeeping, laundry, transportation and pet care. Many families end up hiring a senior care provider to help because the SMA becomes so intrusive into daily life.
Senior care providers are professionals that are trained to help elderly adults age in their own home, even with a range of physical or cognitive issues. Helping aging adults with SMA is no problem for a senior care provider from a reputable business. Family members can set up a schedule for when the senior care provider comes so that the elderly adult receives constant, regular and expert care.
Caring for elderly relatives with SMA can be a real challenge, as they need a lot of assistance. Aging adults with SMA often use a wheelchair, cane or scooter to get around, and experience weakness in the limbs, making it hard to get out of bed, use the toilet or bathe themselves. Because SMA affects swallowing, seniors are at a higher risk of choking when they eat. Lung infections from improperly swallowing liquid and food is often common, too. The senior care provider can be there to help with any problems or tasks that the elderly adult might face.
Having a senior care provider around ensures that the aging adult can still live in their own home while being supervised and assisted. This is one of the best ways to ensure that seniors can remain healthy and safe while living with spinal muscular atrophy.