Caring for someone with MS is tough, especially when they are a close family member. More than 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which means 100,000 families are going through the same thing with you.
MS, as you know, has no cure, however, it can be effectively managed through a number of medical treatments. Beyond the direct medical treatments, there is also a lot you can do.
Caring for someone with MS is an emotional rollercoaster, so look after yourself:
The symptoms of MS are unpredictable. MS suffers go through periods where symptoms get dramatically worse, and days where symptoms seem to improve, or even disappear.
As a family member, this is an emotional rollercoaster, so make sure that you have friends, family and support groups in place to support you, so that you can support them as best you can. It is also important to remember to eat healthily and exercise, both of which contribute to a healthy body and mind.
Finally, if you haven’t already, you may want to tell your employer. They have a duty to put in provisions to enable you to care for your loved one. They also stand to benefit from your continued productive employment, it really is a win-win.
Spotting and helping with the management of symptoms:
Beyond the medication and prescribed treatments, there are several additional ways to alleviate the symptoms:
- Physical Exercise: Exercise can have a significant impact on everything, from muscular health and breathing to mood. Dependent on the stage, this can range from swimming and weight exercises to simple callisthenics (exercising using your own body weight). Just keep them moving.
- Getting a good night’s sleep: Sleep is very important to MS sufferers. Make sure you keep to a routine and make it as easy for them to sleep as possible when it is time for that. This may mean buying blinds, cutting out screens an hour before bed and ensuring dinner is not too late in the evening. This can also have a hugely positive impact on mood.
- Stress and anxiety: Many MS sufferers report that stress and anxiety triggers their symptoms. It is impossible to cut this out, however treating them with dignity and respect, as well as engaging with stress relief techniques, such as meditation, can make all the difference. It can also help them to join a support group.
- Diet: Eating healthy food at regular times not only promotes sleep and reduces stress, but also keeps the body healthy. Many people claim that having plenty of vitamins and minerals can make a huge difference, especially Vitamin D. Whist the data isn’t there to support that yet, it can’t hurt.
- Keep cool: A high body temperature makes symptoms worse. Whilst it is claimed that Vitamin D is good for MS, spending too much time in the sun can cause overheating, worsening any symptoms. In the home, there are plenty of temperature regulation products on the market, from fans and clloing clothing to temperature-controlled beds and mattress toppers.
Help them to follow the doctor’s orders:
Living with an MS sufferer can be difficult, however, living with MS is an awful lot harder. The temptation to do things that are fun like drinking is real, despite the symptoms it may trigger. To help them, you may consider the following:
- Follow the same regime: Eat, sleep and exercise along side them. This will not only make it easier for them to stick to their routine but will probably be quite good for you as well. If you can’t do it all, get a friend or family member to help out.
- Take temptation away: If there are no bad foods or alcohol in the house, giving in to temptation is much harder. Get rid of them.
- Take care of their medication: Ensure that they take it all, on time and in the right dose. Keep an eye on the expiration dates and be sure to get more well in advance of needing it, so there are no gaps.
- Get help: No matter who you are, caring for someone else is exhausting. So give yourself a break by having your friends and family help out. Employ a carer to help out from time to time to give you time to breathe.
The following links are also useful if you want to read further: