2.3 million people in the world are affected by MS. You’re not alone. If your loved one has been diagnosed with MS, it’s natural to feel unsure how to help them or concerned about their general wellbeing and mood. We can help. Read our guide to find out what MS is, how to care for someone with Multiple Sclerosis and how you can get support when you’re helping someone with MS.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a condition of the central nervous system (CNS). Although the cause of MS is still unknown, we do know that what’s happening is the immune system is attacking its own healthy tissue in the CNS, and it shouldn’t be. As a result of this, myelin, which is a substance that protects the body’s nerves, is destroyed. This causes the messages that are sent to the brain to be slowed right down or blocked.
Now you have a better understanding of what happens to the body when an individual is living with MS, read our professional tips for supporting and helping someone with MS.
How to care for someone with Multiple Sclerosis
1. Be understanding
For someone living with MS, there will be good days and bad days. Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable condition which means that it can and does affect each individual living with it in different ways, and on different levels.
Remember to be patient and ask your loved one how you can help but be aware that they might find it difficult to accept this help. If they do accept your care, be honest about the support you feel comfortable in providing.
Alternatively, offer to help them in specific ways, for example:
• Making a hot drink or meal
• Tidying or cleaning their home environment
• Running any errands that they admit to struggling with
2. Learn more about what MS is
The more you know about what to expect with multiple sclerosis and how it can make an individual feel, the more confident you will feel about helping someone with MS. There are lots of ways to educate yourself about the condition. In the beginning, you might feel comfortable to find out more about MS online. In the long term, you might feel you would benefit from joining an MS support group.
3. Make adjustments at home
If your loved one has been diagnosed with MS, it’s likely that you’ll need to assess if adjustments need to be made at home to make the practical side of life easier for your relative. Start by asking yourself some of these questions:
• Do they need a wheelchair? If they do, are ramps and wider doorways needed?
• Do they need any specific bathroom equipment?
• Do they need a stairlift?
• Do they need specific kitchen tools, such as electric can openers or utensils with easy grip handles?
4. Take care of yourself first
Caring for a loved one with Multiple Sclerosis or any condition, can take its toll on you both physically and emotionally. One of the first steps of care giving is to take good care of yourself. If you’re stressed or emotional in any way, you won’t be as able to give the best care that you would want to give to your loved one.
Here are a few little things you can do to make sure you’re looking after yourself:
• Socialise – go out with your friends for a coffee
• Exercise – go for a walk or walk the dog; never underestimate the power of a little fresh air to get some headspace
• Travel – if you can, book a holiday to take a proper break. Remember if you are a full-time or part-time carer and would like temporary respite from your duties, use IP Homecare MS Respite care services.
5. Get help when you need it
If you’ve acknowledged that you need more support, go easy on yourself and remember that it’s not a weakness. The important thing is that your loved one receives the care they need. It might be the case that you’re not taking care of yourself enough so you’re feeling the impact of that. If this could be you, familiarise yourself with the tips in point four. Or, if might be that it’s time to re-evaluate whether a specialist carer is the next step.
Have you considered how an affordable live-in or visiting carer could not only help your loved one living with MS, but also take any pressure or stress off your shoulders? Find out how our carers for individuals with MS could help you. Get in touch now.