5 tips for caring for an MS patient

Are you caring for a family member or friend with multiple sclerosis (MS)? Here are five ways you can help keep your loved one happy and well while living with MS … including caring for yourself.

1. Learn about MS and its many symptoms.

If you’re the primary caregiver for someone with MS, it’s important to understand just what it is.

“I usually explain it as a condition of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, in which the body mistakenly attacks the lining of the nerves,” says Lori Travis, MD, a neurologist at HonorHealth Neurology.

  • Common symptoms include:
  • Numbness in arm, face or one side of body
  • Difficulty with coordination on one side
  • Vertigo or imbalance
  • Painful loss of vision in one eye

2. Expect the unexpected with MS.

When family caregivers ask Dr. Travis what to expect with MS, she tells them to embrace the fact that MS is unpredictable. While that’s true, there are many things patients can do proactively to manage symptoms and the severity of the condition. This includes a wide range of medications and vitamin D supplements.

“People really can make a difference in their MS by being proactive and treating it,” she notes.

While there isn’t a cure for MS, people with the condition can enjoy a good quality of life thanks to the effective treatment options that are available today.

3. Be a second set of ears—and a partner.

If you provide home care for someone with MS symptoms, you play an important role, both emotionally and physically. Dr. Travis recommends going to doctor appointments with the person with MS. If the patient is overwhelmed, being an extra set of ears helps ensure you both understand the treatment plan.
“Having a couple of people telling the doctor what is happening at home is helpful, too” she says.

You can also support someone living with MS by encouraging them to make positive lifestyle choices, including getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and exercising regularly.

4. Know the signs of an MS-related emergency—and when to call the doctor.

People with MS often experience attacks of symptoms that last minutes or hours and then subside. It’s normal for symptoms to come and go like this.
When symptoms are new or last more than 24 hours, though, you should call the doctor so the MS patient can promptly be evaluated and treated.

5. Take care of yourself so you don’t burn out.

Being a caregiver is a big job. It’s important to take care of yourself so you are able to meet the needs of your loved one. Take time to do things you enjoy, and reach out for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Dr. Travis suggests learning more about MS and support groups for caregivers through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Experiencing neurological symptoms?

If you or a loved one is experiencing any neurological symptoms, call 623-580-5800 or find a neurologist.

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