Sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Foundation, the National Multiple Sclerosis Education & Awareness Month occurs in March. This month is dedicated to raising awareness of MS and providing resources to families who are affected by it and senior care providers who can help.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. That means it affects the brain and spinal cord. In a patient with MS, the immune system wages war on this nervous system, eroding the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers.
MS remains a puzzle of sorts for scientists and doctors. No one knows exactly what causes it, though medical experts suspect a combination of heredity and environmental impacts. The virus that causes mononucleosis may be involved in some cases of MS. Patients who already have thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, anemia, and type 1 diabetes are at somewhat higher risk of developing MS.
And there is no cure though there are effective short-term and long-term treatments.
MS usually appears between the ages of twenty and forty. It gets steadily worse as the patient ages. In some people, symptoms are constant, but in others, there are remissions of the disease alternating with relapses.
In its most advanced stage, MS causes mobility issues. Patients may lose the ability to walk and they may also have tremors, numbness in various limbs, and unexplained weakness. Vision problems occur in some MS patients, and some lose their sight altogether over time.
Women are about three times more likely to have MS than men, and the disease targets Caucasians.
How Do You Help a Loved One With MS?
There are many high-tech and low-tech modifications that can help a loved one live with MS with some autonomy. It makes sense to assume the disease will progress, so home modifications should be made with this in mind.
For example, a wheelchair accessible shower is ideal because the patient can use a shower chair or bench to bathe if she is not in a wheelchair. If your senior’s home is on two floors, consider moving the bedroom to the bottom floor. Clothing with buttons and snaps can be tailored to fasten with velcro.
It pays to consider how you will get an MS patient into a car or van in the years ahead. You may want to invest in a wheelchair lift. Some vans come already outfitted with technology that enables someone with severe mobility limitations to access the vehicle.
Older patients with MS may need to hire professional senior care to help with survival tasks like cooking, toileting, and bathing. If you have not hired senior care, it’s a good time to learn more about it and how it can help your parent.
In conclusion, multiple sclerosis is still a scientific mystery. Because it is a progressive disease, its worst stages will be in old age. There is a good deal of technology available to help MS sufferers live independently for as long as possible. With planning and senior care, many MS patients will be able to age in place and enjoy their lives to the fullest extent possible.