Motor neurone disease (MND) is is a neurodegenerative disease that causes rapidly progressive muscle weakness. Specifically, the disease affects nerve cells (motor neurons) that control the muscles that enable you to move, speak, breathe and swallow.

The initial symptoms of motor neurone disease usually develop slowly and subtly over time. It can be easy to mistake early symptoms for those of several unrelated conditions that affect the nervous system. With MND, messages from the motor neurones gradually stop reaching the muscles. This leads the muscles to weaken, stiffen and waste. MND can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. Some people also experience changes to their thinking and behaviour. However, MND affects everyone differently. Not all symptoms will affect everyone, or in the same order. Symptoms also progress at varying speeds, which makes the course of the disease difficult to predict.

MND is life-shortening and there is no cure. Although the disease will progress, symptoms can be managed to help achieve the best possible quality of life.

There is a 1 in 300 risk of getting MND across a lifetime. It can affect adults of any age, but is more likely to affect people over 50.
MND affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time. As this is not a common disease, general health and social care professionals may not see many cases of MND in their professional lives. There is no cure for motor neurone disease, but treatment can help reduce the impact the symptoms have on your life.

Symptoms of MND include:

It is still not possible to give a clear answer about what causes MND, as different things may trigger the disease for each person.

How Can Occupational Therapy Help

Occupational therapists (OTs) can help people overcome everyday difficulties and stay independent for longer by providing advice on new techniques to continue to complete everyday activities such as dressing and meal preparation for as long as possible as the condition progresses. An OT can assess you at home or in your work place and ascertain which areas you are having difficulty with. They can then make recommendations to enable you to manage day to day tasks easier and remain independent for as long as possible.

They can:

  • Advise on safer ways to manage transfers around the house, for example in / out of chairs, on / off the toilet or on / off the bed.
  • Look at areas such as the bathroom and stair mobility and make longer term recommendations to ensure the home environment will meet both your short term and future needs. This includes considering adaptations such as wet rooms, adapted kitchens or through floor lifts.
  • Ensuring the correct seating, mobility aids and wheelchair are provided to maximise your function and independence. OT’s can refer onto other agencies such as a Physiotherapist for a more comprehensive mobility assessment.
  • Working with a client and their employer to advise on ways to remain at work for as long as feasible. This may involve looking at ways of travelling to work, how to maximise energy or investigate work place changes such as the provision of equipment and minor adaptations such as rails.
  • Helping manage fatigue and tiredness by identifying priorities for the day and conserving your energy for those activities whether that be preparing dinner for the children or maintaining your work role.
  • Recommending environmental controls which allow the control of functions in the home such as opening curtains, turning on lights or the TV to be controlled from your wheelchair, armchair or bed. An OT will work with a client to identify the most suitable environmental controls for them that will preserve your independence for as long as possible.
  • An OT can show you techniques and recommend equipment to help you get in and out of your car independently. The OT may also suggest adaptations to your vehicle to keep you safe while driving.
  • An occupational therapist can support you and your family to live positively, helping you to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t; for example, by assisting you to establish personal goals.

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