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What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?

August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month. If you’ve recently become a family caregiver to someone who has the disease, you may have a lot of questions. One way to develop your caregiving skills and help the person with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) to the best of your abilities is to learn as much as possible about the condition.

Elder Care in Gardendale AL: What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?

Elder Care in Gardendale AL: What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?

SMA Basics.

SMA is a disease that affects the nerves in a person’s spinal cord. The nerves are called motor neurons, and they are responsible for conducting signals that tell the muscles when to move. The disease causes the neurons to die off, making the muscles grow weaker, or atrophy. As the muscles atrophy, the person starts to lose the ability to walk, swallow, breathe, and control their neck and head.

SMA currently has no cure. There are several kinds of SMA, some of them are fatal, some strike during infancy, and others affect a person later in life.

SMA Causes.

SMA is a genetic disease. Around 1 out of every 50 people carries the gene that causes SMA. Parents who carry SMA don’t have symptoms, but still pass the disease on to their children. The way the disease is classified depends on the age at which it strikes and how long the person can be expected to live. In general, the older a person is when the symptoms appear, the less severely they will probably be affected and the longer they can expect to live. However, life expectancy depends largely on whether breathing is affected.

SMA happens when there isn’t enough of a protein called SMN, which stands for “survival of motor neuron.” Without SMN, the motor neurons don’t work the way they should. The lack of SMN is caused by mutations in genes on chromosome 5, so you may see SMA referred to as “chromosome 5 SMA.”

How Elder Care Can Help People with SMA.

Depending on how severely they are affected, a person with SMA may need assistance with many things. Elder care can help them to do a number of the tasks they need to perform to live safely and comfortably. Some of the things elder car can do are:

  • Assist with Self-Care Tasks: Elder care can help a person with SMA to do things like brush their teeth, bathe, use the toilet, and dress.
  • Eating: SMA can make it impossible to use a fork or spoon to eat. Elder care can assist with feeding someone affected by the condition. Elder care providers can even prepare healthy meals.
  • Outings: Having a severe physical disability can lead to a person being homebound. An elder care provider can help the person to get out of the house where they can see others and have social interactions, which are important to health and happiness.
  • House Care: Elder care providers can help with house cleaning, laundry, and other household tasks, making it possible for the person with SMA to maintain their home.


If you have a family member with SMA, elder care can help you to ensure they are taken care of even when you cannot be there. Elder care providers can be scheduled to fill in gaps in the care calendar that family caregivers cannot cover. They can come to the home for just a few hours per day, the entire day, or even overnight.

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring professional elder care in Gardendale, AL, call and talk to the staff at Lipford Home Care (205) 623-5700.




Dennis and Kelly Lipford

Dennis is a graduate of Auburn University and is a U.S. Army veteran. Kelly is a graduate of the University of Alabama and is a life long resident of Birmingham.

They have three teenage children and are actively involved in their church and community – both teach high school Sunday school while Dennis coaches youth sports and Kelly leads a women’s Bible study. Dennis & Kelly personally manage the daily activities of the company.

It is their passion and commitment to providing quality and responsive service that has made their company the fastest growing home care agency in Birmingham.

They believe that being an independently owned and operated company gives them the flexibility to manage their business in a way that better serves their clients.

They understand you have a choice in care providers and they will do their utmost to earn your trust.