ALS Clinic Offers Independence and Dignity
The Froedtert & Medical College ALS Clinic provides exceptional care to patients who suffer from the mysterious illness often called “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Recently, it became the only program in the state recognized by the ALS Association as a “designated ALS clinic.” Full certification is in process.
ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. People with ALS gradually lose muscle control and eventually become fully paralyzed. According to clinic director Paul Barkhaus, MD, there is no cure for the illness. That is why a big part of the clinic’s work is palliative care. “The focus is helping patients maintain their independence and dignity.”
Full Range of Services
The seeds of the Froedtert clinic were planted about six years ago, when Dr. Barkhaus was invited to join a regional ALS study group. Because of his heightened attention to the disease, Barkhaus became the nucleus of an ALS practice at Froedtert & Medical College. The practice gradually added a full complement of allied health professionals. Today, the clinic includes an occupational therapist, a speech/swallow specialist, a social worker, a nurse and a patient service coordinator.
Clinic staff try to address patients’ physical, social and emotional needs. They help patients obtain a wide array of assistive devices and show them how to deal with the challenges of everyday life (such as swallowing without breathing in food). In addition, staff help make sure working patients get appropriate benefits. The clinic also sponsors separate monthly support groups for patients and their caregivers.