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How to help your parent live well with Multiple Sclerosis

While more than 100,000 people have Multiple Sclerosis in the UK there are many facts and fictions surrounding the condition that have led to common misconceptions. MS is not a fatal condition but as there is no cure a diagnosis does mean that the disease will slowly affect your parent’s neurological system.

Whether you parent has been recently diagnosed or has been managing their MS symptoms for many years we share some tips to help you support them as their health needs change.

Periods of rest

Fatigue can be one of the more prominent symptoms for your parent, especially as they get older. Keeping a record of when their fatigue affects them most and what tasks make them feel most tired can help to pinpoint the parts of their day when they need to rely on others and take some time out to rest.

If your parent likes to be self-reliant they may not want you to cause a fuss if they’re not coping as well as they used to with day-to-day living. Offering to help them reorganise their home to make life easier, hiring a cleaner or making a list of priorities together can help your parent to focus on what they want to achieve and what can be left lingering at the bottom of the to-do list.

Spending a penny

Both your parent’s bowel and bladder movements can be affected by their MS. No one particularly likes to talk about these sorts of health issues so your parent may be resistant to sharing their troubles with you as it can be both distressing and embarrassing for them.

Urinary tract infections can mimic MS symptoms associated with the bladder so it might be worth asking your parent’s GP to test for this as an infection can be treated quickly and effectively to rid your parent of urinary discomfort.

MS can make it harder for your parent to control their bladder and bowel. Botox (believe it or not) and self-catheterisation are both treatments that can help improve your parent’s ability to go to the toilet. For Botox treatment your parent will need a GP referral to an urologist who can advise your parent on the suitability of the procedure.

The NHS have Continence Clinics across the UK that your parent can be referred to by their doctor to help manage their symptoms and The Bladder and Bowel Foundation have a range of factsheets as well as a helpline to support you parent should they need more information.

Gift of the gab

Problems with producing the sounds needed for speech are symptomatic of MS. If your parent is struggling with a softer voice or slurred speech their MS specialist, GP or nurse should be the first port of call as they can refer your parent to a local speech and language therapist.

Allowing your parent to take more time over their words and resisting the urge to get frustrated with their slowed speech will help them to regain their confidence and reduce their anxiety. Their therapist may recommend exercises to strengthen your parent’s throat muscles or simple breathing exercises that can help them to practise breathing control and accent certain sounds while expelling air.

Finding a balance

Your parents may experience problems with balance or feeling unsteady on their feet. While a balance issue can impact people in different ways it may mean that your parent has to move with more care or needs an aid to walk with safely.

Lack of coordination can lead to falls and can also be confused with physical ailments rather than psychological symptoms so it might be a good idea to sign your parent up for a physiotherapy programme focused on improving balance and posture.

Exercise therapies such as Yoga and Pilates have also been said to give people increased control over their movement and may be more suited to your parent’s physical capabilities than physiotherapy treatment.

Seeking help

Getting the advice of an occupational therapist can help your parent to assess the changes they need to make to their home so it to better suits their needs. A physiotherapist or specialist MS nurse can also help to soothe your parent’s symptoms and source the equipment they need to live independently for longer.

The MS Trust has a great directory of useful blogs and support groups that you and your parent can browse through as well as a searchable map of local MS services including where to find MS specialists and nurses.

If you’d like more information on how to help your parent manage their MS both the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Trust have relevant resources to guide you and your parent.

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