Caring for someone with MS
When it comes to caring for someone with MS involves moments of high stress and a top level of physical and mental strength for the caregiver. It takes guts and bravery, someone determined to face the unknown with a fierce gaze. To be a caregiver is not for those faint of heart.
One important aspect to always keep in mind when caring for someone with MS is the relevance of staying calm and assess the situation as it happens to the patient. Multiple Sclerosis can be unpredictable and both patient and caregiver might not know what to expect from one week to the next. The patient could confront intense mood swings and physical challenges that might lead to necessary changes in their surroundings.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord nerves. MS damages the myelin, which is the protein layer that protects and assists the nerve fiber to send electrical signals from the brain to the rest of the body. This disruption can come to cause a large list of symptoms such as fatigue, balance and coordination difficulties, uncontrolled spasms and even loss of vision.
One thing that most caregivers overlook (no matter the condition of their patient) is their own well being. As the National MS Society puts it on their Caregiver guide booklet:
“Realize that for you to take care of yourself is not an act of selfishness. You deserve to be healthy and feel well.”
“Maintain facets of your life that do not include your loved one, just as you would if he or she were healthy.”
Caring for an MS patient is an intriguing task most of the time, but as the previous example. There are many organizations that specialize in providing all the pertinent information in regards to this specific condition and offer many resources as well as online forums and support groups.
The most common physical symptoms seen on an MS patient are:
- Loss of bladder control: (neurogenic bladder), which can be very frustrating for the patient as the nerves controlling the urinary muscles become damaged and fail at their job, causing it leak or on the contrary make it difficult to start urinating. Experts recommend starting using the proper incontinence products available for the patient as well as consult with the attending physician to consider alternative remedies or even more invasive solutions.
- Mobility difficulties: As the person living with MS suffers a loss of muscle control, it becomes harder to get around properly. Analyzing the progressiveness of these difficulties can lead to the proper decision of what is the best mobility aid for the patient as well as daily living aids to make things more easy and manageable around the house.
- Sharp pain: This could be felt in many places of the body and very quite sudden in most cases. Pain sensations such as:
o MS hug: described by most patients as an uncomfortable numbness or burning sensation that wraps them around the waistline (also seen on feet, legs and arms).
o Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN): often caused by grinning or yawning, is a sharp facial pain. Has been described as aching, muscle cramping or a burning sensation on the entire area.
o Lhermitte's sign: also known as the barber chair phenomenon, patients describe it as an electric shock sensation that travels from the head to the spinal area.
Those in charge of caring for someone with MS must stay up to date in all medical advances done for the disease as well as to have regular checkups on themselves to be always able to care for their loved one. Caregiver burnout usually creeps in for those who least expect it and are not taking good care of themselves. Watch out for any burnout signs and look for those great sources of comfort that can come from friends and family.