Speak to a Representative
(855) 792-4669

Top Five Exercises That Help Promote Well Being for Those with MS

When someone with multiple sclerosis is fatigued and experiencing pain—two of the most common symptoms of the debilitating disease—exercising may not be the first solution that pops into her mind.

But staying active is one of the most important parts of a treatment plan.

Studies have shown that regularly exercising can improve endurance, increase strength and agility, decrease fatigue and improve mood.

Exercise can sound intimidating, especially for someone who struggles with immobility. But it doesn’t need to be strenuous or even done outside the home to be incorporated into a daily routine.

Many community centers offer group classes and access to a workout facility. Or, if staying home is preferable, exercise videos provide instruction on the correct form and duration for specific movements.

Before trying any new exercises, always talk to a doctor to confirm what level of activity is recommended. A physical therapist can create customized plans for various symptoms and progression levels.

In general, most exercise routines will involve a version of these five categories, which have all been shown to benefit those with MS.

 

Stretching

Stretching for at least 10 minutes a day can help maintain a person’s range of motion and ease symptoms like muscle stiffness and soreness. Focus on arms, chest, and legs, trying to hold each stretch for 30- 60 seconds.

Many of these exercises, like reaching the arms up to the ceiling or stretching the chest by opening the arms wide behind the body, can be done from a seated position. Equipment like exercise bands and stepping blocks can help with balance and give the body a deeper stretch.

Remember, stretching is supposed to feel good, so modify the movements until they feel right.

Yoga or Tai Chi can also help calm the mind and reduce stress, an important part of maintaining emotional wellbeing.

Here are few videos introducing basic yoga movements for those with MS.

Walking

Walking is an aerobic activity that builds muscle strength, increases balance, and gets the heartrate going.

Doctors suggest starting slowly with a warm-up and drinking plenty of water. Using a fan or wearing a cooling device like a vest can help keep the body temperature regular.

Aim for reaching a moderate level of exercise: there’s perspiration and heavy breathing, but it’s still manageable to carry on a conversation. It’s recommended to get in about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.

Find a time of the day that’s convenient and feels the best for activity, which may be in the cooler hours early in the morning since heat can often exacerbate MS symptoms. Or, find an adequate indoor space.

And remember, everyday activities like walking while shopping or taking out the dog count toward this goal.

Joining a walking group can be a great motivator for keeping up with the routine and hitting exercise goals.

Aquatic

Water creates an environment of buoyancy, weightlessness, and resistance, which makes the pool an ideal place for exercise.

It also provides support and stability to practice functional movements, such as balance, coordination, and flexibility, that many people with MS struggle with on land.

Classes are offered at most gyms and community centers and typically involve gentle stretching, a slow jog, and then a cardio push like a faster jog, to increase the heartrate.

Water levels are shallow for easy movement and temperature is recommended to stay between 80 and 84 degrees, according to the National MS Society, to keep the body cool.

Floating devices, such as noodles, foam dumbbells, and kickboards can help with balance.

Strength Training

While aerobic exercises like walking and swimming exercise the heart and lungs, resistance, or strength training, improves muscle strength.

Since muscle weakness is a common symptom for people with MS, building up muscle and bone strength can help delay symptom progression. It can also help with range of motion, posture, and balance.

Examples of upper body strength training include arm raises, triceps dips and rows. The goal is to complete about 10-20 reps, at least twice a week. Most of the exercises can be done from a seated position and don’t require weights or other equipment.

However, incorporating resistance bands or machines can be helpful for stability and keeping correct posture.

Ask a physical therapist or trainer about modifications to accommodate specific symptoms.

Click here for further instruction and examples of other suggested exercises.

Recovery

As important as including exercises into the daily routine, letting the body cool down from this activity is equally as vital.

Walking at a slower pace, slightly stretching or marching in place allows the body to not only recover from the exercise just done, but also prepare for the next session.

Pay attention to how breathing, heartrate, and body temperature slow down to their normal settings.

Use this time to monitor how the body feels after a workout versus before.

Consider the two-hour rule: if symptoms feel worse two hours after exercising, then there was most likely too much exertion and the activity level or duration needs to be lowered for the next exercise session.

Read more

The Top 5 Ways Caregivers Assist Those with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable disease, meaning there’s no way to predict the progression or severity of specific symptoms.

It also has no cure, so as symptoms progress over someone’s lifetime—often causing complete loss of mobility—there’s an ever-present need for a caregiver.

Caregivers can range from family, friends, rehab specialists, hired professionals, to a medical team and provide relief with many of the daily activities that would cause emotional and physical strain.

It’s hard to predict what kind of help someone will need, especially right after a diagnosis, but preparing for what’s potentially to come will eliminate the stress of scrambling to find an appropriate caregiver as new symptoms surface.

To get started, here are the most common ways that caregivers help at home:

Daily chores

Before the diagnosis, daily household chores were mindless and for the most part, required limited physical strain. As symptoms progress, tasks like doing laundry, washing dishes, getting the mail and vacuuming can become painful and tiresome. For more advanced cases, completing these tasks may be impossible.

Making a list of household chores is helpful to figure out what needs to be accomplished and how often.

Other daily tasks include driving to social gatherings and doctor appointments, helping with childcare responsibilities, walking the dog, and grocery shopping.

Personal care

Shaky hands, numbness and tingling can make personal care a great source of discomfort. But part of maintaining mental wellbeing and staying positive is keeping up with good personal hygiene. Caregivers help MS patients with morning and nighttime routines, including eating meals, bathing, using the bathroom, brushing teeth, and getting undressed and dressed.

Because some of these tasks are intimate, hiring a professional caregiver can relieve potential embarrassment.

To make these tasks easier for both caregiver and patient, create an environment that’s practical for a person with limited mobility. Sometimes, it takes only a couple modifications. Examples are a walk-in or roll-in bath and shower, or a shower chair with back support, and an elevated toilet seat with rails. A bedpan is helpful if walking from the bed to the bathroom is too much of a trek, and also, if there’s a caregiver around constantly to help with bathroom needs.

Medical care

As the person with MS becomes more immobile, the caregiver will need to move or lift her from one location to another, like from the wheelchair into bed.

Assisted devices  and equipment can help make this process easier, but the caregiver must be physically strong enough to manage these tasks and know how to work the equipment. An occupational therapist or physical therapist can help decide which devices are necessary to ensure an easier daily routine.

The caregiver also makes sure the patient is keeping up with a physical exercise routine, like stretching and walking to prevent stiffness, and monitoring medication intake and adverse side effects. A chart can help keep the entire caregiving team and the person with MS informed and on the same page.

Emotional support

The disease has no cure, so it lasts a lifetime. Without emotional support, living with a chronic and debilitating illness can be lonely and lead to depression.

The more immobile one becomes, the more difficult it can be to socialize and remain emotionally stable. A caregiver’s role is vital to staying on top of a patient’s emotional well-being—a major factor in someone’s overall wellness.

Family and friends can offer support through the diagnosis itself, progressing symptoms and flare ups.

Encouraging engagement in activities that the person with MS used to enjoy and socializing with friends, will help promote a more positive state of mind and remind individuals that they can maintain some aspects of their lifestyles that they had before diagnosis.

Finances

Coping with the chronic disease is stressful, but figuring out the financial aspects that tag along with it adds another level of complexity. Equipment, assisted devices and treatments cost money, and it can be complicated to figure out what’s covered by insurance and what bills to prioritize.

Caregivers can help organize the appropriate paperwork and with general financial planning, which will most likely involve learning to budget after the person with MS can no longer work. Financial Planning for a Life with Multiple Sclerosis explains many of the financial challenges that accompany the disease.

 

Read more

How Caregivers Help To Support a Loved One with Multiple Sclerosis

 

Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating and complicated autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system, causing brain and spinal cord damage—oftentimes impairing mood, speech, thought processes and physical agility.

This can make it difficult for someone to get around as easily as he used to.

Because MS is so unpredictable—the type and severity of symptoms and the progression varying from case-to-case—it can often feel overwhelming or confusing for friends and family who want to help, but aren’t sure how.

It’s important to encourage a lifestyle surrounded by wellness activities, or activities that promote mental and physical wellbeing, to mitigate symptoms and help your loved one find happiness, purpose and most importantly, a close version to what life was like before the diagnosis.

The good news is that advancements in treatment have made living with MS more tolerable by slowing the progression of symptoms, which can include fatigue, numbness and tingling, blurred and double vision, poor coordination, imbalance, pain and memory and concentration issues. Less common symptoms include tremors, paralysis and blindness.

In addition, the life expectancy of someone living with MS has increased significantly in the last 20-25 years—giving an adult with MS just seven years fewer life expectancy than a healthy adult, according to the National MS Society.

Even with these advancements, an MS diagnosis can feel scary and isolating, and it’s important to support your loved one through his new lifestyle. In fact, research shows that the level of support is one of the most essential factors in how well a person manages his disease.

Here are a few ways you can help:

Educate yourself

Because MS is a complex neurological disease and differs greatly from one patient to the next, it’s often misunderstood and intimidating for family and friends. Learning about the cause, progression, treatment options and caregiving possibilities, you will start to better understand what your loved one is going through and how you can help. Understanding the unpredictability of the disease will also give you a greater perspective on the level of fatigue someone might be experiencing one day and not another, and how someone is responding to new medications.

Two helpful resources are the National Multiple Sclerosis Society  and the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. These groups offer free support services through phone lines and chatrooms for friends and family learning to cope with a diagnosis.

Ask how you can help

Oftentimes people with MS are afraid to ask for help because they don’t want to burden anyone, they’re embarrassed, or, if it’s a new diagnosis or new symptoms, they may not know exactly how they need help. Don’t wait for your loved one to reach out; instead, suggest ways you might be of service. Some ideas are joining them at a support group meeting and doctor appointments, creating recipes or cooking together to encourage healthy eating, completing household chores, and playing games to stimulate cognitive function.

Exercise together

Studies show that exercise helps manage many MS symptoms, such as lessoning fatigue and mood swings and increasing strength, bone density and flexibility. Carve physical activity into your time spent together. Exercising doesn’t have to be strenuous cardio work; even gardening, walking the dog or stretching can make an impact.

Assisted devices, such as scooters or walking supports, can further mobility and expand the range of activities that you are able plan together.

Engage in community activities

A social gathering may seem intimidating, especially if your loved one isn’t sure if he wants to disclose the disease to anyone outside the family, or is physically incapable of getting to a meeting spot. Initiate an outing to meet with friends or offer to drive your loved one to a friend’s house. Forming and maintaining relationships and having a strong network nearby is essential for mental health and wellness, especially if he was a social person before the diagnosis.

Make sure it’s a give-and-take relationship

When your friend or family member is suffering from a chronic disease, it’s common to assume that it’s your responsibility to constantly give, whether it’s through emotional or physical support. But, it’s a healthier relationship if you depend on your friend for the things you used to before he was diagnosed.

Rely on him for emotional support, sharing stories about what’s happening in your life and ask for advice—he will most likely be gracious to help you.

If the new dynamic is difficult to navigate, consider hiring a caretaker to help with everyday tasks. This way, you can focus on your relationship and the reasons you enjoy each other’s company.

 

 

 

Read more

Different Rehabilitation Strategies for MS Sufferers

If you or someone you love is struggling with multiple sclerosis (MS), one thing is for certain: you have more questions than answers.

  • What causes the immune response that destroys myelin and damages nerves?
  • When will your next relapse be?
  • What triggers a relapse?
  • What nerves will be affected, and what symptoms will you experience?
  • How will your body respond to treatments?
  • How will your disease progress, and what limitations can you expect in the future?

No one fully understands MS; the causes of the disease and its progression remain the subject of considerable research. No one can predict the impact MS will have on your body, your future, or your life.

Amidst all this swirling uncertainty, it becomes critically important for patients to hold tightly to truths that are firm and reliable. One truth that is especially important for MS patients to cling to is this: restorative rehabilitation strategies will improve your quality of life. To be clear, rehabilitation will not cure MS. It will not slow the progression of the disease, nor will it necessarily restore your abilities to where they were prior to relapse. What rehabilitation will do, however, is help you be as active, safe, and as physically and mentally engaged with your life as you possibly can be at your stage of MS.

MS patients experience a number of benefits from regular, strategic rehabilitation, including the following:

  • Their good health beyond MS symptoms is preserved.
  • They experience lower levels of fatigue.
  • Their strength, balance, and flexibility are improved.
  • They are better prepared to meet future challenges.
  • They receive assistance with adaptive tools.
  • They learn new skills to adapt to their changing abilities.
  • They have a more positive mental outlook.
  • They are more able to stay actively involved in their own care.
  • They have a greater ability to function at home, at work, and at play.

Rehabilitation Strategies

MS is a complicated disease that touches every aspect of the patient’s life, so it should be no surprise that effective rehabilitation takes several forms. Any rehabilitation program should include components of all the strategies, depending upon symptoms and the stage of the disease.

Physical Therapy

The role of physical therapy is to attend to the body’s ability to function and move appropriately; the goal is to promote independence and safety. Physical therapists have tools to help MS with a variety of issues that include obvious challenges such as mobility, gait, and balance, as well as less visible issues such as bowel and bladder dysfunction. Without physical therapy, the symptoms of MS get worse.

Physical therapy plays a role at every stage of MS:

Diagnosis

Physical therapists make a baseline assessment of the patient’s abilities and offer strategies to help with fatigue. They can also address subtle balance and gait issues that may be present.

Following a Relapse

Physical therapy following a relapse helps return the patient to their baseline functioning.

Progressing Disease

As MS progresses, physical therapy serves to address declining abilities proactively. Patients also receive help with adaptive tools such as canes or walkers.

Advanced Disease

Patients with advanced MS are rarely ambulatory, but physical therapy continues to be important for maintaining healthy seated positions and improving strength in upper extremities as well as assistance with breathing, speech, spasticity, and bowel and bladder relief. Non-ambulatory MS patients also need help with performing weight-bearing exercises on long bones even when they are not in use.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists help MS patients get through each day. They help their patients navigate their homes, cars, and workplaces with strategies and adaptive tools to simplify tasks and conserve energy. Again, the goal is to help MS patients remain independent, productive, and safe. While physical therapy focuses on the body, occupational therapy focuses on tasks. Examples of typical MS modifications include devices such as grab bars to help patients remain upright in the shower; cleaning tools that are easier to manage and hold; behavior modifications for bathing, toileting, and dressing; and assistance with driving a car using hand controls.

Cognitive Therapy

Attention, focus, memory, and problem-solving skills all take a significant hit from MS; most MS patients struggle to some degree with one or more of these issues. Professionals such as neuropsychologists and some occupational therapists work with MS patients to evaluate their cognitive health and suggest strategies for maintaining or even improving brain function. These strategies fall into two basic categories:

Restorative Therapies

This is basically physical therapy for the brain. Specialists use tools like puzzles, games, and computer programs to improve functions like memory and attention.

Compensatory Interventions

Think of this as occupational therapy for the brain. Compensatory interventions, also called workarounds, are intended to help MS patients function successfully despite their deficits. Examples include calendars, alarms, filing systems, notes, etc.

Speech and Language Therapy

MS can cause patients to lose muscle control in their lips, tongue, vocal cords, diaphragm, and soft palate, resulting in a range of speech difficulties that includes challenges such as a lack of precise articulation, the inability to maintain a conversation, or the inability to control volume, tempo, or voice quality effectively. Swallowing can also be affected. Speech/language pathologists have access to therapies that can help MS patients improve their breath support, safely swallow, and improve their communication. They also have access to tools to assist MS patients with significant speech difficulties such as computer-assisted communications devices or voice amplifiers.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Meaningful work is key to maintaining good mental health. Assistive technologies and advanced physical and occupational therapies make it possible for many MS patients to continue in their chosen vocations. Each state in the US has a vocational rehabilitation program for residents with MS that has the goal of helping MS patients remain employed as long as possible. Vocational rehabilitation includes a combination of services such as job training, job coaching, assistive technology, and job placement services, all designed to assist MS patients in finding and keeping meaningful employment that accommodates their changing physical needs.

The Care You Need

MS is a lifelong disease. The caregivers at 24 Hour Home Care are specially trained to assist with many of the rehabilitation needs of MS patients. We are an invaluable resource for patients who wish to remain independent but, at the same time, need extra assistance. Contact us to discuss how we can help with your MS care and rehabilitation program.

 

Read more

Types of Multiple Sclerosis and How They Affect Seniors

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves in the human body.

As the myelin sheath is progressively damaged and destroyed by MS, nerve function is compromised, eventually leading to debilitating conditions such as irreversible muscle weakness and paralysis. MS is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin, but researchers still have significant work to do to fully understand the causes of this disease.

MS has a reputation for being a disease of youth; MS typically initially presents in men and women between the ages of 20 and 40 and was thought to take a significant toll on life expectancy. Improvements in multiple sclerosis care as well as a greater understanding that life expectancy reductions are due to complications from MS rather than the MS itself are raising important questions about aging with MS.

Types of Multiple Sclerosis

Patients’ experiences with MS are varied; the progression of the disease is as unique as the patient. That said, four general disease courses, also called types or phenotypes, have been identified to classify patients with MS.

CIS (Clinically Isolated Syndrome)

Patients carry a diagnosis of CIS when they have experienced one isolated episode of neurologic symptoms that has lasted a minimum of 24 hours. The neurologic episode in patients with CIS is caused by inflammation or demyelination of the nerve sheath and isn’t associated with any other disease or infection. As the name suggests, CIS is often an isolated incident that does not lead to MS. However, CIS has a high chance of progressing to MS when the neurologic symptoms are accompanied by the presence of active brain lesions or by evidence of past brain lesions, visible via MRI. If MS is determined to be a high risk, patients with CIS may begin a treatment regimen designed to delay or prevent the onset of MS.

RRMS (Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis)

RRMS is the most common course for MS patients; approximately 85% of MS patients are initially diagnosed with RRMS. RRMS patients experience clearly defined attacks of neurologic symptoms, called relapses, when myelin layers are attacked and damaged by inflammatory cells. These relapses are followed by periods of partial or full recovery, called remissions. During a remission, the disease doesn’t progress; symptoms may continue or disappear, but the disease itself doesn’t worsen or get better.

RRMS patients can also be classified as active, not active, or worsening, depending upon relapses, new MRI activity, or an increase in disability over time. These characterizations are important because they assist caregivers in evaluating and designing treatment programs.

SPMS (Secondary Progressive MS)

SPMS is generally considered to be a second phase of MS; it follows an initial diagnosis of RRMS. Patients progress from RRMS to SPMS as their disease moves from the inflammation seen in RRMS to more significant nerve damage or loss. Patients with SPMS experience a progressive worsening of neurologic function. SPMS patients can further be classified as active, not active, progressing, or not progressing.

PPMS (Primary Progressive MS)

PPMS stands alone and outside of the CIS, RRMS, SPMS progression seen in the majority of MS patients. PPMS patients, about 15% of all MS patients, experience degenerating neurologic function without any early relapses or remissions. Patients with PPMS have fewer brain lesions than patients with RRMS, but they have more lesions in the spinal cord. PPMS lesions contain fewer inflammatory cells than RRMS lesions, making the condition more difficult to diagnose and treat. PPMS patients experience far more mobility problems than other MS patients. PPMS patients can also be classified as active, not active, progressing, or not progressing.

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

MS treatment begins early in the disease and lasts a lifetime. Patients and health care providers work closely together to manage the disease and maintain quality of life. Treatments for all types of MS include a patient-specific combination of medications prescribed for three general purposes:

  • Disease modification. A number of therapies exist that help reduce relapses, delay the onset and progression of disability, and inhibit new disease activity.
  • Relapse management. During a relapse, inflammation in the central nervous system causes damage to the myelin sheath around nerve fibers, which, in turn, disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses. During severe relapses that interfere with the patient’s overall ability to function, high doses of corticosteroids can be prescribed. These medications don’t alter the course of the disease, but they can make severe relapses more manageable.
  • Symptom management. MS patients experience a wide range of symptoms caused by disruptions to the central nervous system, including poor bladder function, impaired vision, dizziness, bowel disruption, itchiness, tremors, and emotional changes. MS patients have access to several medications that help manage these symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis and Aging

MS is a degenerative, incurable disease; by the time the patient reaches their senior years, it’s likely that irreversible muscle weakness, paralysis, and other debilitating conditions are present. Aging MS patients and their caregivers must consider comorbidities, cognitive changes, emotional changes, self-care, and end-of-life planning. Many of the symptoms experienced by MS patients are also experienced by normally aging individuals. For example, it’s normal to suffer fatigue, loss of muscle strength, changes in optical acuity, and cognitive changes with age; MS exacerbates these issues and makes life more challenging. It can also be difficult to distinguish between symptoms of age, symptoms of MS, or symptoms that arise as a side effect of medications. In addition, older MS patients report significant limitations in most areas of self-care, including bathing, toileting, and getting around the house. Transportation, nutrition, exercise, and maintaining good mental health are also exceptionally difficult.

All this means that senior MS patients require specialized care. These older adults are likely struggling with multiple chronic conditions associated with aging and MS. Medication management is a significant issue; coordinating multiple medications at different times throughout the day is a critical task. In addition, self-care assistance, attention to mental health, help with physical therapy, and palliative care should also be part of a long-term care program for aging MS patients. The caregivers at 24 Hour Home Care have specialized training in MS care for seniors; our caregivers understand the complexity of aging with MS and are prepared to offer expert assistance. With our help, seniors living with MS can live in their own home and maintain their quality of life for as long as possible. Call 800-522-1516 today to learn more about our in-home MS care services.

Read more

Resources and Support Groups for Those with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an incurable autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system – the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.

For reasons not currently understood, the body’s immune system begins attacking the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers throughout the body. The damaged protective coating leaves nerve cells exposed, disrupting the transmissions that run through these pathways. The result is the potential for loss of function throughout the body; no muscle or nerve is out of reach of MS.

Every patient’s journey with MS is different. The disease is highly capricious, attacking nerves randomly without warning. Approximately 85% of MS patients have relapsing-remitting MS, meaning that symptoms appear during relapses and then go away. The course of the disease is unpredictable; no one understands what triggers relapses, and no one can predict how long the disease will take to progress or what limitations await in the future. As a result, MS often leaves newly diagnosed patients feeling lonely and adrift; facing a lifetime of ever-increasing disability can make it seem as if the world has crumbled with no hope of restoration. Science and medicine hold very few answers, offering only medical treatments that may or may not alter the course of the disease or improve the symptoms of a relapse.

As a result, most MS patients turn to various support groups to find additional information, support, and connections to help them navigate the challenges of life with MS. Sometimes the best, most satisfying source of help is another person struggling with the same issues. If you or someone you love is living with MS, the following information will help you find resources to make the journey feel less lonely and to provide much-needed hope in a difficult situation.

Types of Support: An Overview

 
MS patients have a range of choices when it comes to seeking out additional support. In a very general sense, support groups can offer the following:

  • A sense of community and a place to share your feelings, concerns, and questions with others who are in similar circumstances. These groups are a safe place to share and be understood.
  • Access to a wide range of services to help MS patients. These groups provide educational tools and supply connections to resources that offer assistance to MS patients.
  • Links to organizations that are working to accelerate research into MS, where patients can educate themselves on the latest information about their disease as well as share their experiences in order to assist researchers.

National and local groups are available; MS patients can connect with one another in person or online. Whichever way MS patients choose to connect, the result is the same: feelings of isolation and despair dissipate as the therapeutic nature of genuine communication and understanding takes effect.

Resources to Get You Connected

 
Support groups for MS patients abound; there’s no shortage of choices, so folks with MS are certain to find a group, or two or three, that suits their specific needs. Here are some great online resources to get started:

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s mission is to eradicate MS. To that end, they fund research, provide MS education, and provide programs and services to help MS patients and their families. On their website, you’ll find links to the following:

  • Library of Educational Programs You’ll find magazines, articles, webinars, videos, and more dedicated to providing comprehensive MS education.
  • Support links to help you connect with a national MS navigator, large online support groups, or local groups in your area.
  • Advanced Care resources to help patients identify ways to make their situation better, even in advanced stages of the disease.
  • Local chapters where you can meet new people and participate in events in your area.

You’ll find these resources and many, many others at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website.

MSConnection.org

MSConnection.org is an online social network for people living with MS and their friends and family. Here, patients, caregivers, researchers, and the medical community can connect in a safe, secure environment to discuss their experiences with MS. Once you join, you can participate in online discussions about a wealth of topics such as dealing with a new diagnosis, how to manage nerve pain, or what to do when your face tingles. You’ll also find groups for specific populations, such as Young Adults with MSMoms with MS, or Veterans with MS. You’ll also find resources to connect you with one-on-one peer counseling to get personalized support for your struggle.

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Facebook Page

This is another social media platform meant to facilitate connections for MS patients. It’s a great place to ask questions about specific challenges and get answers from patients who’ve had similar issues. For example, one user expressed concern about handling the heat on an upcoming family vacation. Members of the group were able to direct her to a cooling vest that would keep her comfortable so she could enjoy activities with her family.

These are just a few of the many resources available online to MS patients. If you are struggling with MS, rest assured that you are not alone; others are in this fight with you and are available to help you function optimally in whatever your circumstances may be. Opening yourself up to receive help from a support group, whether online, in person, or both, gives you access to tools and resources you cannot imagine and will help you shape the course of your life with MS.

Additional Help

 
Getting good home care is also an important facet of living well with MS. 24 Hour Home Care provides specialized in-home care to patients struggling with MS. Our caregivers understand the struggles MS patients face and are prepared to provide compassionate, skilled services such as help with exercise, assistance with light housework, nutrition assistance, medication management, and other tasks that can pose a challenge for MS patients. MS patients also benefit from their connection to their caregivers; relationships and regular human contact enhance mental and emotional health. Contact us today to find out about our MS care services.

Read more

Complications and Conditions of Multiple Sclerosis in Seniors

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an incurable degenerative disease that affects the myelin sheath around nerve cells.

MS is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, where the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain, the spinal cord, and the optic nerves. The immune system does this by causing inflammation that damages the myelin, the cells the make myelin, and often the nerve fibers themselves. When this damage occurs, transmissions within the CNS are altered or stopped, causing a myriad of neurological symptoms. The damaged areas develop scar tissue; multiple sclerosis means multiple areas of scarring. The impact of MS is unpredictable; no two patients are alike. Each patient’s symptoms are determined solely upon which nerves their MS attacks and upon the frequency and severity of the attacks.

Causes

The exact cause of MS is not known. Scientific research into causes and triggers of MS falls into four general categories:

  • Immunology. MS is considered an autoimmune disorder. It’s known that T cells and B cells are involved in the abnormal immune response seen in MS patients, but research continues in discovering what sets the response in motion and how to slow or stop it. Researchers are also searching for other cells and processes that might be involved with MS.
  • Epidemiology. Epidemiologists are actively pursuing research into incidents of MS within specific groups of people. Geography, race, ethnicity, age, and lifestyle are among the many factors being considered as possible triggers for developing MS. For example, MS is known to occur at higher rates in geographical locations that are farther from the equator. Correlations between early childhood obesity, smoking, and low levels of vitamin D have also been posited as possible triggers for MS.
  • Genetics. MS is not a genetic disorder; an MS gene has not been identified. That said, there does seem to be an inheritable genetic risk for developing MS.
  • Infectious agents. The disease process of MS involves the body attacking itself; an outside agent like a bacteria or virus does not destroy myelin. However, it’s possible that an infectious agent could be involved in triggering the development of MS. Scientists are investigating a number of viruses and bacteria to determine if they are associated with MS.

Understanding the causes and triggers of MS will help in the development of more effective treatments and will ultimately lead to discovering ways to cure or, better yet, prevent the disease.

Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

 
There is no definitive list of symptoms, physical findings, or lab tests that can determine if a patient has MS. However, the following are characteristics of clinical findings in patients experiencing the early signs of multiple sclerosis:

  • Sensory symptoms in the face or limbs
  • Vision loss in one eye
  • Recent onset muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Balance problems, dizziness, and vertigo
  • Gait changes
  • Sensations down the back or limbs upon neck flexion that feel like electric shocks
  • Bladder control problems

Patients with MS experience symptoms when the transmission of nerve signals along the CNS is disrupted. Symptoms vary from person to person, depending on the location of the damage. As a result, signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis alone are not sufficient to diagnose MS. A definitive MS diagnosis requires both evidence visible via MRI of at least two areas of damage on the CNS that have occurred at different times and the exclusion of other explanations for symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis Complications

 
MS can affect every major function in the body, so it’s not surprising that living with MS is complicated. The following are examples of challenges MS patients face:

Direct Complications

  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction – MS can cause problems like incontinence, constipation, and urinary retention.
  • Cognitive dysfunction – While dementia is not typically associated with MS, other cognitive impairments are frequent, including difficulties with focus, executive functioning, short-term memory, word recall, abstract conceptualization, and impaired information processing speed.
  • Vision impairment – Vision changes occur as MS progresses. Complications include unilateral vision loss, blurry vision, double vision, uncontrolled eye movements, and complete vision loss.
  • Sensory impairment – MS patients regularly experience numbness and tingling in their extremities, making everyday tasks a challenge.
  • Depression -Depression is common among MS patients.
  • Fatigue – MS patients frequently experience fatigue that is unrelated to their level of activity.
  • Difficulty walking – A variety of nerve issues can affect a patient’s ability to walk, including spasticity, muscle weakness, fatigue, numbness and tingling, and vision loss.

Indirect Complications

  • Infection – Many MS treatments include immunosuppressive therapies designed to slow or stop the body’s immune response. This is tricky; since MS is an immune disorder, stopping the immune system from attacking the myelin is critical. But hampering the immune system also leaves patients more vulnerable to infection.
  • Complications from corticosteroids – Short-term use of corticosteroids is the best way to help an MS relapse go away quickly, but corticosteroids are rough on the body and cause lots of unpleasant side effects, including pressure behind the eyes, weight gain, fluid retention, and high blood pressure as well as memory and mood issues.
  • Venous thromboembolism (VTE) – VTE is a blood clot that causes a blockage. Steroid use, low mobility, and muscle stiffness are all risk factors for developing VTE, all of which make MS patients prime candidates.

Seniors and Multiple Sclerosis

 
A cursory glance through the complications of living with MS makes it easy to see why this disease poses a challenge for seniors. For seniors and caregivers, it’s often difficult to distinguish between symptoms of MS and symptoms of aging. This makes it very hard for health care providers to determine if MS is active or progressing, making choosing and evaluating treatment protocols especially challenging. Seniors with MS require special attention, often around the clock. Care involves the following:

  • Medication management to make certain drug regimens are followed carefully especially in the face of cognitive impairment
  • Physical therapy and exercise to minimize muscle stiffness and to prevent VTEs
  • Light housework, cooking, and shopping to prevent injury, maintain good nutrition, and keep seniors living at home as long as possible
  • Assistance with personal care – regular tasks such as toileting and bathing can be monumental challenges for senior MS patients
  • Regular companionship to keep seniors mentally healthy
  • Palliative care to alleviate discomfort

As MS treatments improve, more and more patients with MS are living into their senior years. The professional caregivers at 24 Hour Home Care are here to provide specialized at-home care for seniors living with MS. Our caregivers understand the complexities facing older MS patients and are committed to providing competent, compassionate care designed to help patients maintain their quality of life. Call today to learn more about our in-home MS care services.

Read more

7 Tips to Improve Quality of Life for MS Patients

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system in the body, which includes the brain, spinal column, and the optic nerves.

MS is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the body’s own immune system is the source of the damage rather than an external agent such as a virus or bacteria. MS causes damage to the CNS by destroying the protective myelin sheath that surrounds nerves. When this protective coating is damaged, transmissions within the CNS are disrupted and even stopped; depending on the locations of the damage, MS can affect motor function, sensation, and even cognition.

Living with MS

Living with MS is a challenge. The disease is capricious; relapses are unpredictable in their timing, their severity, and their symptoms. There is no cure. An MS diagnosis holds the promise of a lifelong battle. The resulting toll on quality of life is significant. Symptoms of MS include fatigue, impaired mobility, pain, tremors, cognitive impairment, depression, bowel and bladder dysfunction, vision loss, hearing problems, sexual dysfunction, seizures, and difficulties with swallowing and breathing. MS interferes with every facet of the patient’s life, their ability to work, pursue leisure activities, enjoy intimacy, maintain good mental health, and participate in regular social interactions.

One of the most important aspects of caring for MS patients is careful attention to their quality of life. Life satisfaction is affected by more than just the status and progression of the disease; the patient’s feelings about their personal autonomy, their ability to make their own life decisions and live life as they please, must be carefully considered as part of any successful treatment program.

Treating MS

At the most basic level, treating MS involves a combination of medications to address three general concerns:

Disease Modification

A number of therapies are available to help prevent relapses, delay the progression of disability, and constrain new disease activity.

Relapse Management

Severe relapses can interfere with the patient’s ability to function normally. At these times, high doses of corticosteroids can be prescribed to reduce the inflammation that damages myelin.

Symptom Management

Disruptions to the central nervous system cause a myriad of symptoms, including poor bladder and bowel function, impaired vision, dizziness, itchiness, tremors, and cognitive and emotional changes. MS patients have access to several medications to help mitigate these symptoms.

But achieving optimum health for MS patients requires going above and beyond the medical treatment plan to take care of the whole body – heart, mind, and soul.

7 Ways to Improve MS Patient’s Quality of Life

Quality of life is a subjective measure of the patient’s overall state of mind that encompasses not only the progression of the disease but their mood, their daily life experiences, and their ability to cope with the symptoms of MS. Vigilant attention to the following principles has been shown to have a positive impact on the quality of life of MS patients:

Empower Patients

First and foremost, MS patients should be full participants in every aspect of their care as much as possible. This includes medical therapy decisions, symptom management, and any care services received outside the doctor’s office. The ability to pursue meaningful work, maintain healthy relationships, and take responsibility for their own personal well-being is critical to building the resilience necessary to successfully navigate a life that can often feel dominated by MS.

Practice Healthy Habits

Good nutrition, plenty of movement, and sleep are part of the healthy lifestyle of an MS patient. Fitness and function both depend on keeping the body as well fed and well rested as possible. Healthy habits help combat many of the most difficult symptoms of MS.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is bad. It’s a risk factor of the disease and has been shown to make the disease worse. MS patients have enough challenges to deal with without the added complications a bad smoking habit brings.

Keep the Brain Stimulated

Engaging the brain regularly helps fight the “use it or lose it” trap that is even more apparent in MS patients. Stimulating conversation, puzzles, good books, memory games, and learning new skills help maintain brain health.

Take Vitamin D

The exact connection between vitamin D and MS is still the subject of much research, but there’s sufficient evidence already to suggest that vitamin D can stave off relapses and slow the progression of MS. Don’t take any chances; boost your intake of this essential nutrient.

Pay Attention to Mental Health

Depression is a serious issue for patients with MS. The difficulty of the diagnosis, the challenge of dealing with the varied symptoms, and the financial burden of the disease are enough to shake the foundations of the healthiest individuals, but the impact of MS on the brain itself seems to make staying mentally strong an even greater challenge. Reducing stress, surrounding themselves with loving and supportive friends and family, and actively dealing with depression are all ways for MS patients to stay mentally healthy.

Get Help

No one gets through MS alone. Many MS patients, especially seniors, find themselves in need of extra assistance with everyday activities. Expert caregivers from organizations such as 24 Hour Home Care offer assistance with everything including maintaining a medicine regimen, help with light housework, cooking, shopping, and personal care. Trusted, compassionate caregivers can also be a reliable daily presence in the life of an MS patient, offering much-needed companionship.

Life with MS is a journey. Navigate it well with the help of these seven tips. For more information about specialized MS care, please contact 24 Hour Home Care today.

Read more

What is Multiple Sclerosis and How Does it Affect Your Life?

Multiple Sclerosis, also known as MS, is a lifelong disease that can completely disable the spinal cord and brain, also commonly referred to as the bodies central nervous system.

When an individual has Multiple Sclerosis, their nerves that communicate between their brain and the rest of their bodies system become deteriorated, damaged and could be permanently broken-down. Each person will have a different degree of damage to his or her nerves, causing their MS to be of different calibers.

There are four different types of Multiple Sclerosis that define the way the body responds to the disease over a prolonged period of time. The four types of MS are:

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS, also known as RRMS, which is the most common form of MS. Individuals with RRMS will have periods of prolonged symptoms and complications of the disease, also known as relapses.
  • Secondary-Progressive MS, also known as SPM, which defines symptoms of the disease worsening over time.
  • Primary-Progressive MS, also known as PPMS, is when symptoms progress at a steady but slow rate over time with no changes.
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS) is rare but is defined by symptoms progressing at a steady but swift rate.

The only person who can formally diagnose an individual with a specific form of Multiple Sclerosis is a medical professional through various tests. When the following signs and symptoms are present, it is important to seek out medical attention.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of MS?

It is important to note that Multiple Sclerosis symptoms and signs will vary from person to person, as no two cases are exactly the same. The symptoms that an individual with MS will experience highly depends on the type of damage done to the nervous system and where the damage is. Common signs and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are:

  • Slurred speech
  • Increased fatigue or tiredness
  • Double vision that lasts an abnormally long time
  • Loss of vision, often times in one eye at a time
  • Painful movement of the eyes
  • Increased incoordination in movements
  • Tingling sensation, often on one side of the body
  • Numbness of limbs, also on one side of the body
  • Trouble with bladder and bowel movements

It is imperative to seek out professional medical attention if you or your loved ones are experiencing the signs and symptoms listed above for an unidentified reason. Symptoms of MS will vary in severity depending on the type of the disease the individual has.

What Causes MS?

Unfortunately, the exact cause of Multiple Sclerosis is generally unknown. Researchers believe that general environmental factors may play a part in declining health , increasing the chances of humans to developing illnesses and diseases such as MS. Such environmental factors include: diet, exercise, tobacco and alcohol use and genetic factors.

Although the exact causes of Multiple Sclerosis are unknown, researchers do believe there is a direct correlation between the biological sex of an individual and their chances of developing MS. It is believed that 3 in 4 of MS patients are female, due to their range of hormones through out their lifetime.

Living with a Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

Living with a MS diagnosis can be a chaotic, stressful and foreign time for all parties involved. After a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, individuals may feel as though their life will never be the same as it was before their diagnosis. While they may be correct to a degree, people with MS should know that a happy life is possible while they are coping with the disease.

Assuming the individual is not suffering from severe MS complications and symptoms, a fulfilled life is absolutely possible through the proper treatment and a healthy environment. Treatment will vary depending on the type of MS that the individual has, as well as whether the person can handle injectable medication or oral medication. Treatment options for Multiple Sclerosis includes injectable medications such as beta interferons and glatiramer acetate. Oral medication for MS may include fingolimod, teriflunomide, dimethyl fumarate or mitoxantrone. Natalizumab is a medication that can delivered to the MS patient intravenously, if an oral or injectable medication is not an option due to rapidly progressive MS. The course of the disease will widely determine the type of medication, as well as the frequency of the doses.

After the person living with MS has a handle on their prescribed treatment plan, he or she can continue to live their lives happily while dealing with their diagnosis.

It is important that individuals with MS eat properly, exercise if cleared by their doctor to do so and understands the warning signs of a relapse or setback. It can also be beneficial to hire a therapist for the individual to work through his or her emotions surrounding their diagnosis, as well as an in-home caregiver (LINK HOME CARE BLOG) for assistance around their home.

With the proper support system, living with MS can lead to a happy, fulfilling and delightful life. It is important to remember that a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis does not define an individual, but should rather serve as motivation to live life to the fullest and to never take a moment for granted.

Read more

How You Can Live Your Best Life with MS

When you are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, you may feel that you are losing a part of who you are and your identity as an active or healthy individual. People that are diagnosed with MS may feel that they will never feel like themselves again, causing them to fall into a depression. While the fact remains true that they will not have the same bill of health ever again due to their MS diagnoses, they can continue to live a happy and healthy life. The individual should focus more on their overall well-being, which includes focusing on their emotional, physical, spiritual health. Here are some ways that you can live well with Multiple Sclerosis.

  • Diet & exercise should become an essential part of your every day life with Multiple Sclerosis. The first step would be to consult your doctor and map out a nutrition and exercise plan that is customizable to your needs, health condition and your overall goals. It is important to follow this plan as best as possible, with the help of your doctor along the way. There are many tools that you can use along the way such as weekly meal preparation, work out videos or daily walks around the neighborhood. Make sure you find recipes and activities that you enjoy and will motivate you to focus on your health.
  • Emotional well being is incredibly important when you are dealing with the diagnoses of Multiple Sclerosis. Exercise and diet will affect your overall emotional wellbeing, but there are other important factors to consider as well. As humans, we can choose to have positive attitudes about our surroundings and the situations that we engage in. Remember to be present, to enjoy the things you choose to spend your time on and to relieve stress in the most constructive way that you can. This will vary from person to person, leaving it up to you to find what makes you emotionally satisfied. This could mean putting more effort into relationships that make you happy and feel loved, or joining a support group for individuals with MS. Find what makes you emotionally satisfied and go after it.
  • Your spiritual health is also imperative to staying positive and feeling your best. This does not have to be through religion, although that is a wonderful way to boost your spiritual wellbeing. You can also find new meaning within yourself, finding ways to be more aware of your space, your capabilities and your mind. You may also seek more meaningful and deep conversations and relationships with your loved ones. By taking life’s challenges and redirecting them into a creative, positive outlet, you can feed your heart and your spirit. We hope that you will make room for more love in your heart and more fire within your spirit.

Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis can be intimidating, scary and can cause an individual to lose their hope or self-confidence. We hope that you will speak with your doctor and team of professionals about improving all aspects of your life. With an emphasis on your emotional, spiritual and physical health, you can live a healthy and happy life. We hope that you will open your heart to receiving all of the gifts that life has to offer.

Read more
Request Consultation