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 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.
At the most basic level, treating MS involves a combination of medications to address three general concerns:
A number of therapies are available to help prevent relapses, delay the progression of disability, and constrain new disease activity.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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