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Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain’s ability to communicate with the body. The resulting symptoms are a challenge for patients to deal with day in and day out. This is where MS caregivers like you come in. Check out these tips for multiple sclerosis caregivers.
One of the most important things you can do for your loved one with multiple sclerosis is to learn more about the disease. There are fewer things more meaningful than feeling known and understood, even amidst something mysterious and scary like an incurable disease. Research the disease itself and how it causes demyelination and neuron damage in the central nervous system. Neuroscience may feel intimidating to figure out, but familiarize yourself with the basics. This foundation of knowledge will come in handy when interacting with doctors and observing the impacts of disrupted electrochemical signals in your loved one’s body.
Furthermore, push yourself to learn about your loved one’s experience with multiple sclerosis. They have an array of symptoms, all very real and very frustrating. One of the biggest symptoms to understand is MS fatigue. Though invisible, the fatigue can be quite potent. Show your loved one understanding and patience when they lose energy quickly or need frequent naps. Learn about their other issues such as tremors, incontinence, vision impairment, and incoordination.
As a caregiver, your role involves helping your loved one handle their medical information. Take the time to organize all their important information in one place. You can use a health journal to record appointment dates, doctor contact information, prescription names and dosages, and questions for your next medical visit. Track any input from your loved one concerning their health, symptoms, and prescription reactions, including your own observations. Place all this information in one place to make everyone’s lives a bit easier.
Diet can affect various MS symptoms, so find ways to share a healthy diet with your loved one. There’s no special multiple sclerosis diet, but there are foods that can increase energy and aid bowel and bladder function. Join your loved one in their dieting focus; you’ll feel stronger and more energetic yourself. Try sharing food and cooking the same meals for each other. This way, they won’t feel left out when eating different or less appetizing food.
Exercise is known to boost mental health, sharpen the brain, and improve overall physical health. Make the effort to routinely work out with your loved one. Sharp and jarring movements can trigger multiple sclerosis, so try low-impact activities such as yoga and water exercise. Show your support and improve your own health by exercising together. If your loved one has a challenging day with their symptoms or feels fatigued, don’t push them to exercise. Your role is to encourage them and support them with their immediate needs
Since MS symptoms change day to day, you and your loved one must establish clear lines of communication. They should have ways to easily tell you about their problems. Thriving communication will help the caregiver relationship work more easily and build emotional honesty. Work together as a team to address medical or interpersonal issues. Additionally, find ways to collaborate and improve the home. Look for ways to remove obstacles and declutter. If the MS is advanced, you may want to even consider moving into a single floor home or apartment without stairs.
MS support groups are essential to you and your loved one’s emotional wellbeing. Whether you find separate groups or attend together, you need to have like-minded people with whom you can share similar experiences. As a caregiver, you bear a large part of the medical, organizational, and emotional burden as your loved one lives with a degenerative disease. Be proactive and find an MS support group today. Check local hospitals, MS groups, and even religious organizations.
Allow yourself to have your own projects and invest time in simple hobbies. You may not have the time, interest, or emotional bandwidth for an involved hobby, so look for something simple. Do some DIY crafts, gardening, learn a new instrument, try baking, knitting, painting, or candle-making. You can do each of these around the house while remaining available to your loved one in case they need you. In the long run, hobbies such as these can be a haven amid hectic weeks when nothing seems to go your way.
Self-care is all-important for caregivers. Take time for yourself and allow yourself a chance to breathe, away from the demands of caring for another person. Spend time alone doing activities that give you life. Consider keeping a private journal where you can process your thoughts and emotions. The most important part of self-care time is reconnecting with yourself. Amid the busyness and distraction of your life, it’s difficult to find space to relax and rest. Set time aside for yourself and let others know not to distract you.
As a caregiver, one of the best ways to care for yourself is to spend time with other people. Though your loved one is important to you, it’s critical to spend time apart in separate social circles. Whether you see old friends, catch up with new acquaintances, or volunteer with others in the community, socializing with people who don’t live in your home does wonders for your mental health and wellbeing.
Use these tips for multiple sclerosis caregivers to improve your day-to-day life with your loved one. If you ever need additional caregiving help at home, the team at Fedelta Home Care can direct you to our home health care in Federal Way, WA. Reach out to us today to hear about our services.