Motor Neurone Care: What Causes Motor Neurone Disease in the Elderly?

Motor neurone disease (MND) can be a daunting diagnosis with symptoms that make day to day living a challenge. Care is available to help your loved one manage their symptoms, ensuring they can live life as independently as possible in their own homes. While a small proportion of cases may be hereditary, identifying exact causation is not always possible, and more research is needed to assess the risk factors.

MND types and symptoms

Motor neurone disease refers to a collection of conditions that affect spinal nerves and result, over time, in the brain losing its ability to function. When cells in the nerves and brain, called motor neurons, fail to work over time, the brain gradually loses its ability to function and send the signals to the body as usual.

The most common type of MND is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the same condition Stephen Hawking lived with for decades. Other forms include progressive muscular atrophy (PMA), primary lateral sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and progressive bulbar palsy (PBP).

Symptoms often progress slowly, affecting specific areas such as the arms and legs, respiratory system, or the mouth. Symptoms then may include slurred speech, fatigue, muscle pain and weakness, cramps, difficulty with swallowing, clumsiness, weight loss and muscle loss or shortness of breath.

As the condition advances, symptoms may progress to the point of more severe difficulty breathing, joint pain, muscle loss, drooling from problematic swallowing and personality changes. Many with ALS may find language and memory are affected, and a smaller percentage may develop dementia. Home care is targeted to support and assist with everyday living where these symptoms become problematic, so those with MND needn’t feel alone in managing the condition.

What happens in the development of MND?

The muscles are given signals to move by motor neurons passing the messages to the brain. These signals are required for unconscious, automatic and conscious movements, from breathing and swallowing to lifting an object and walking. When these motor neurons gradually lose effectiveness, the brain fails to function, and the resulting movements are impaired.

Many elements may go wrong with motor neurons and their mechanisms, from abnormal protein molecule aggregates and high glutamate levels, to cell structure degeneration, toxic glial cells and abnormal mitochondria.

Hereditary causes of MND

While spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is entirely hereditary, many other MNDs are not. It’s thought that approximately 10% of motor neurone diseases have genetic components and are inherited. The remaining 90% are considered random, with no clear explanation or causation. The National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS) indicates the hereditary rate of ALS in the US is approximately 10%, affecting those between 55 to 77 years old.

It, therefore, appears that in some forms of MND genetics play a role, but not always and a combination of other influences and risk factors likely lead to the expression and experience of MND in later life


Colin and Dulcie’s story

Dulcie is 102-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for over two years.

We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman – and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.


Other risk factors in MND

NINDS suggests a combination of factors may be at play in the development of MND, from viral, toxic and general environmental factors, to genetics.

NINDs have found that veterans seem to be 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop ALS compared with non-veterans, suggesting the possibility that toxins may be a risk factor. Furthermore, studies indicate footballers often have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, ALS and similar neurodegenerative conditions, possibly as a result of head and brain trauma.

More research is needed, but studies have shown potential links between MND and various environmental and lifestyle factors. For example, heavy metal exposure, service in the military, electrical or mechanical trauma, high levels of physical exertion and exercise, head and brain trauma and chemical exposure, including agricultural chemicals.

Your elderly loved one may experience a range of symptoms that make day to day living more challenging, while it can also be frustrating if there’s no identifiable cause for the disease. Whatever the cause, motor neurone care can support those with MND on a day to day basis to help make managing the condition a little less daunting.

MND in the elderly

Motor neurone disease can affect children and adults, although it typically affects those in their 60s and 70s. Many of those seeking private care for their loved ones will be looking for dementia care and support with MND. We appreciate how vital compassionate elderly caregivers are in making a positive difference to lives. Those with MND shouldn’t feel they have to give up their homes to get the support needed. Your loved one can retain their independence, their freedom of choice and stay in the comfort of their own home with professional, trusted live-in carers.

There’s no cure, but there are ways to manage and hopefully slow the progression of MND. Practical personal support, assistive therapy and devices for independent living, possibly physical therapy, speech therapy, and in some cases medication, can all form part of a management plan.

Motor neurone care services can help your loved one to live more comfortably in their own home, assisting with the challenges presented by MND symptoms. This one to one, live-in care will provide not only physical support but the emotional support and companionship, which is pivotal to mental wellbeing. This type of home care means you can rest assured that your loved one is in good hands with a reliable, professional carer, specially selected and matched to their needs.

With or without a known cause, those with MND can live the highest quality life possible with a live-in carer, giving them back some control over their lives and their care while staying comfortably in their own home.

Call us for expert live-in care advice

Providing motor neurone care can be challenging, so it’s important to understand the disease. Here we take a look at the different symptoms and causes of MND.

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