Dealing with a Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis can be difficult for friends and family. Sometimes they want to say and do the right things, but don’t always know the best way to help without being to invasive or overly protective. If you know someone with MS, here are some tips to keep in mind for how to support people with MS, particularly during periods of relapse.
Anxiety is one of the most often reported symptoms of MS, and it is usually the result of an MS flare-up. Anxiousness can be further exacerbated by steroid-based multiple sclerosis therapies that are often prescribed to fight relapses, since anxiety is one of the most common side effects with these drugs. When high levels of anxiety accompany MS flare-ups, friends and family can provide a sense of reliability and reassurance, particularly in helping the patient handle stressful aspects of their lives.
it’s also helpful to let the MS patient know that they can call you at any time, since bouts of MS-related anxiety often intensify at night.
Multiple Sclerosis can be scary for a relative or friend to go through. It is, after all, a serious disease that still has few reliable treatments and no cure. However, considering that the majority of MS patients begin with Relapsing-Remitting MS, it is important to remember that symptoms come and go. Some of the symptoms, such as tingling legs, balance issues, and numbness can lead to stress and even panic. During relapses, symptoms often intensify. However, for those with the relapsing-remitting form of the disease, these intense symptoms eventually diminish and pass away.
Depending on the treatment used to ease symptoms, it’s usually possible for MS patients to get relatively quick relief from flare-ups. However, symptoms may return as the treatment begins to wear off, often leaving patients with few options before their next allotted dose. As a result, support members should check in on MS patients, even when it seems like the worst is over. Because MS treatments often do not completely eliminate symptoms, MS patients often fall into despair as symptoms worsen and they have little resource to treat them. It is times like these when a friend or family member can offer understanding and a fun, engaging distraction from the symptoms of the disease, while also making it clear that hearing and talking about MS is ok as well.
When patients are undergoing a relapse or MS crisis, they may need help with common tasks — sometimes for days or even weeks — until symptoms go away. Nothing says “I care” to an MS patient in a relapse more than helping out with simple, daily, yet crucial life tasks, such as bringing food — especially if it’s home cooked. This may seem like obvious advice, but most people disregard how helpful bringing food to someone who is ill can be; it ensures that the person will eat a healthy meal, and at the same time takes care of a daily burdens in an MS patient’s list of daily tasks, such as shopping, cooking, or washing the dishes.
Relapsing MS patients usually don’t feel comfortable driving because they tend to have delayed reaction time and other symptoms that interfere with driving. Volunteer to drive your relative or friend to appointments, supermarket runs, and just around the block to get out of the house for a change of setting. Even offering to take an MS sufferer’s children for an afternoon in the park is a gesture of great support. In difficult MS times, having a few quiet and silent hours can be crucial to recover and relax a bit — so do your friend a favor and prepare a day at the zoo or the museum with the kids.
At first, it may be difficult to determine how to support people with MS. However, if you keep their emotional and physical needs front and center in your mind, it’s easy to come up with dozens of little things you can do on a daily basis that can make a major difference in their lives.