How can you help someone with Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative disorder of the brain & the central nervous system. When someone has Multiple Sclerosis, their immune system attacks the protective cover (myelin) that covers the nerve fibers. This slowly destroys the nerves & affects the communication between the nerves & the brain. MS eventually causes complete deterioration of the nerves & makes basic life functions difficult for the patient in the final stages of the disease.

 

The signs & symptoms differ for each individual MS patient. Some may experience difficulty performing some specific functions, while others may completely lose the ability to walk, speak, or swallow.

People with MS generally experience the following symptoms, in varying degrees:

 

  • Muscle stiffness or spasms
  • Paralysis, usually in the legs
  • Issues with controlling the bladder & the bowel
  • Difficulty in sexual functions
  • Mental problems like forgetfulness, mood swings, & aggressive behavior
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Early signs of vertigo, sudden dizziness, & problems with maintaining balance

 

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis is an auto-immune disorder. Its causes range from a Vitamin D deficiency to age-related stress & bodily deterioration, to certain infections like the Epstein-Barr virus, & other auto-immune disorders like psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, pernicious anemia, thyroid issues, etc. Women are also thrice as likely to develop MS in life than men. Smokers & people living in areas with a temperate climate like Canada, the northern United States, New Zealand, southeastern Australia, and Europe also have a high risk for developing MS in life. People of Northern European descent are at the highest risk of developing MS.

There is no cure or Multiple Sclerosis treatment available. Treatment generally focuses on relieving the patient’s symptoms & promoting speedy recovery. Multiple Sclerosis treatment generally involves the administration of corticosteroids to reduce nerve inflammation, & plasmapheresis.

In people who have primary-progressive MS symptoms, like early signs of vertigo & other signs of nerve weakness, a drug therapy called ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) is the only FDA-approved disease-modifying therapy (DMT).

In those who receive this treatment, the disease is slightly less likely to progress than those who don’t receive any treatment at all. Despite the fact that treatment options can reduce the rate of progress of MS, the fact remains that MS is an untreatable disease that significantly affects the quality of life of the affected person. People with MS lead very different lives than the average person, & require a ton of help & support in order to perform even the most basic of everyday tasks.

This puts their caregivers, friends, & loved ones in a very difficult spot. If you know someone with Multiple Sclerosis, the article below will give you some tips to take care of them better.

Help them with simple everyday tasks:

If you are living with someone with Multiple Sclerosis, expect to take on more of everyday tasks. Help them out with everyday chores like cleaning, dusting, cooking, laundry, washing dishes, transportation from home to office, or arrange a ride for them to do so. Depending on how advanced their condition is, you may even have to help them with dressing, feeding, bathing, etc. Try to keep a positive attitude when doing these things, as negative thoughts & comments will only make their condition worse, mentally as well as physically.

Help them become independent:

Helping your loved one with MS become more independent by investing in a walker or a wheelchair, will help them towards leading a better life in the long run. It will also take some pressure from your shoulders, as now they will be able to perform some tasks on their own. Also, make some physical changes & adjustments around your house. Ramps, wider doorways, & safer bathroom equipment might help them stay safe & prevent any injuries during bathroom use, navigating around the house, etc.  If needed, you can rally the help of an occupational physical therapist to help your loved one develop better-coping strategies to navigate through their condition.

Take thorough note of their medical care:

Keep track of doctor appointments, medical documentation, appropriate medicine usage, injections, & any side effects from the treatment of your loved one.  This is important as your loved one might not always be able to tell you about their symptoms, so you better keep track of any changes in their condition & stay ahead of their medical care.

Stay ready for the unexpected to happen:

The most confusing aspect of MS is its unpredictability. You never know when your loved one’s condition might get better, or worsen, for that matter. Hence, expecting the unexpected should be your pen phrase.  Try to maintain a positive attitude throughout the fluctuations in your loved one’s health & your lives, & prepare a plan for any contingencies during the course of their conditions.  Making set schedules, talking & communicating with your loved one about their health, taking notes from their doctor, & planning your life around them are some of the ways in which you can better manage the unpredictability around the disease, & your loved one’s illness.

Don’t shy away from asking for help:

Being a caretaker for your loved one with MS doesn’t mean that you will always have all the answers. It’s alright, in fact even expected, for you to be confused & lost at times.  At these times, it’s important to seek the help you need from more experienced people, other family members, friends, & colleagues.

Don’t attempt to shoulder all the responsibility on yourself, & ask for help when needed.

Schedule some me-time:

You might need some me-time too, despite all the love & concern you might have for your loved one.

Take some time out for yourself, & do things that you enjoy. Ask other family members, friends, & community members to take over for you during that time, & attend to the person’s needs at all times.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Multiple Sclerosis patient must be attended to at all times, & shouldn’t be left alone.

Take care of yourself:

As a caretaker for a loved one with MS, it’s important for you to take care of yourself. Stay healthy by exercising regularly, eating healthy food, following a productive lifestyle, & keeping stress levels at bay.

All of this might sound difficult when you’re living with someone with MS, as there is no predictability in the situation.

But following a proper schedule, eating healthy, exercising, & indulging in stress-reduction activities like dancing, yoga, knitting, etc. can help you get that much-needed balance in your life. Following a regulated schedule & lifestyle will also help you keep a positive attitude towards the problems that occur in your everyday life as a caretaker of someone with a chronic condition. Taking good care of yourself will also ensure that you will be able to take good care of your loved one with MS too.

You will also be able to better take any unexpected news in a good-natured, positive way, rather than being overly stressed over the situation. For your loved ones, seeing you happy & fulfilled will give them the much-needed inspiration to keep on living with their condition, & not make them feel like a burden on you.

 

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