Ways to Help Patients with MS
April 06 2020
Helping Multiple Sclerosis Patients Life Life to the Fullest
Caregivers play an essential role in helping patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This life-altering disorder requires day-to-day support and understanding. MS is a chronic and generally progressive autoimmune disease that damages the sheaths of nerve cells in a patient’s spinal cord and brain which then makes it difficult for them to get around as easily as they once used to.
It is important to understand that MS affects everyone differently. There are a range of symptoms that patients can experience, such as weakness, dizziness, fatigue, imbalance, vision loss, mood changes and cognitive changes. And these symptoms will fluctuate.
Be Flexible, Understanding and Patient
Because MS is so unpredictable, it is important to be flexible. Planning is key, including establishing routines but you must also be flexible. An MS patient will have good days and bad days, so be ready with a plan B when the bad days do occur. In other words, plan but be willing to go with the flow.
It is important to not make any assumptions as well. No two patients with MS will have the same experiences, so be understanding when working with someone who has MS. Not only that, but each stage of the disorder will come with different symptoms for each patient. So be understanding. Both you and the patient will have to learn how to adapt as you go.
Patience is also key. It can be easy to want to jump in when cognition issues are presenting themselves. Instead, give the patient enough time and space to speak or act. Understand that these changes are just as, if not more, frustrating for the patient as they can be for you as a caregiver.
Less is More
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS. When they are feeling tired, remind them that it is okay to take a nap. Also help your patient embrace the simple pleasures in life and never suggest any activities that might be too much for them.
MS patients can struggle with everyday tasks such as using the bathroom or cleaning. Remember to first offer your help. Just jumping in and doing things without asking can bruise a person’s pride and it is still important to treat MS patients with respect, just as you would with anyone else. Consider delegating chores or tasks, allowing the patient to do the things they are able to. This will allow for some independence while maintaining their safety.
Medical Aids and Making Adjustments to the Home
Helping keep MS patients as independent as possible is important. Giving an MS patient medical aides such as walking sticks, walkers and wheelchairs can help them safely move about in and out of the home. Making adjustments to the home will also make it easier and safer for an MS patient. Consider installing ramps, wider doorways and bathroom equipment to help keep your patient or loved one safe.
Helping with Specific MS Symptoms
MS patients can experience changes in bladder and bowel function. If the patient has lost mobility and is confined to a bed or wheelchair, skin care is also very important.
- Bladder Issues: MS patients may experience urgency, frequency, hesitancy and incontinence. There are several self-care activities, lifestyle modifications, medications and devices that can be prescribed to the patient. As a professional caregiver, it is important that you help educate the patient and their family on the intervention(s) prescribed and oversee them.
- Bowel Issues: A loss of mobility can cause foods to move more slowly through the digestive tract, possibly causing stools to become hard and difficult to pass. Both a healthy diet high in fiber, proper liquid intake and regular exercise can promote bowel health. As a professional caregiver, it is important to encourage a healthy lifestyle and assist where needed.
- Skin Care: As the disorder progresses and a patient loses mobility, skin can begin to break down. Caregivers will need to work to prevent pressure sores from developing. Using cushions to distribute weight properly and teaching patients how to shift their weight (by doing it themselves or with the help of someone else) are crucial in protecting susceptible spots on the body. A special mattress or bedding can also help to alleviate skin breakdown, as well as proper nutrition.
Promote a General Healthy Lifestyle
MS puts a person at an increased risk for a range of health problems, so promoting a general healthy lifestyle is key to helping them live the best life possible. This includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet and ensuring that the patient is following their doctor’s orders, including taking medications as prescribed.