Has someone important to you been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS)? This disease can be hard for patients — as well as their family and friends — to live with. Here are some important things to remember if you love someone with this disease.
1. They Value Their Independence
Many MS patients, as the diseases progresses, can have problems with muscle control and mobility — and everyday tasks like preparing a meal, walking or going to the bathroom can become a challenge. But they want to maintain their independence and do for themselves for as long as they possibly can. It is an important part of their dignity.
2. They Live in Hope
MS is a progressive disease and there is no cure for it. However, they do have hope that this might change. And research is underway around the world to help find eventually find a cure for this difficult disease. And in the meantime, new MS treatments are offering the hope for a better quality of life.
3. They Want to be Acknowledged
As the MS advances, many patients will often become confined to a wheelchair and may have difficulty speaking and some short term memory loss. Oftentimes, other people will feel uncomfortable about this and talk to relatives or doctors as though the patient is not there. People with MS want to be acknowledged and spoken to directly: their IQ is not affected by this disease and they want to be able to communicate just like everyone else.
4. They are Not Helpless
People with MS can be empowered to take control of managing their disease through many lifestyle choices. Diet, for instance, can play an important role in MS management and although it cannot cure the disease, it can help with the health of the immune system and the body in general.
5. They are Not Alone
Over 2.5 million people all around the world live with multiple sclerosis every day. There are 400,000 in the United States alone and around 200 new people are diagnosed with this disease each week. Because of its prevalence, there are MS support groups all over the country and many people find that joining a support group and getting connected with other who also struggle with this disease is emotionally helpful.
6. They Have Choices
Many patients with MS are choosing the route of complementary and alternative medicines to help manage with condition. Some will do this along with traditional treatments and some in place of them. These alternatives include herbal therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy, among others.
7. They Do Not All Have the Same Signs and Symptoms
Multiple sclerosis is not a “one size fits all” disease! It is different for each person who experiences it. There are four types of multiple sclerosis and each one can be mild, moderate or severe. Not all people with MS will wind up with walkers or wheelchairs. Not all will have vision or memory problems, either.