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Caregiving For A Loved One With MS

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Caregivers are everyday heroes who make someone else’s health and happiness their number one priority. They devote countless hours to doctor’s appointments, medication logs and helping a loved one with the things that many of us take for granted, like eating, walking and getting dressed. The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the largest home health care agency in the nation, is launching “Celebrating Caregivers” on Monday January 10, 2011 to recognize and celebrate caregivers and their everyday acts of kindness. People are invited to submit stories about caregivers who have gone above and beyond for a chance to win an iPad. Submit your story before February 13, 2011 at contest.vnsny.org  
Multiple sclerosis works silently and swiftly, sometimes moving from symptom to symptom in a matter of weeks, but also possibly years. MS affects how signals are sent to the brain, which can often be crippling. The average diagnosis of MS is between ages of 20 and 50, making those suffering from MS much younger. It also affects one in 750 people. MS impacts the body, but not the mind, so someone suffering from MS could be paralyzed physically and require significant caregiving for MS, but be completely mentally capable.

Experts in delivering care to individuals with MS can help patients who wish to remain independent and happy in the comfort of their own homes. Home modification is often a major factor for a person with MS, and an assessment from an experienced health professional can guide you through this process. The following tips can help people and families who have someone living at home with MS.

Tips For MS Caregivers At Home

Multiple sclerosis caregiving involves a unique set of responsibilities as the person with MS loses physical abilities. These guidelines can help caregiving for MS patients:

  • Create and follow a healthy well-balanced diet for the loved one with MS.
  • Develop an exercise program that will help increase energy, balance and flexibility.
  • If the MS patient is in a wheelchair make sure that it is fitted properly.
  • Ask a professional about making necessary changes and home modifications so that your loved one is able to move as freely as possible and can safely shower and bathe.
  • Check regularly for skin irritations—MS patients have loss of nerve fibers and are less likely to notice bedsores or major skin irritations.
  • Be mindful of the heat. MS makes people very heat sensitive, which can bring on fatigue or affect the level of their strength.
  • Be careful not to speak to an MS patient like they are hard of hearing or cognitively impaired. Fatigue can bring on speech impairment, but this has no affect on their ability to hear or understand.
  • Help loved ones stay intellectually stimulated through interests, whether it be through reading books, learning a new language or watching movies; having such connections can help them to avoid depression.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and encourage your loved one with MS to maintain a positive attitude as well; this will help lower the stress that comes with living with MS.
  • Show patience and understanding. Realize that MS is an unpredictable disease, and your loved one’s ability will vary day to day, so it is important to be able to adapt.
  • Allow the person to do whatever they are able to on any particular day. While simple tasks like brushing teeth may take a long time, the feeling of accomplishment from having completed that task independently can be a major motivator.

When To Hire A Home Health Aide

Caregivers tend to shoulder too many responsibilities, putting their own health and well-being in jeopardy. Be aware of the signs and signals that you need help to provide the highest level of multiple sclerosis caregiving for your loved one:

  • When it becomes too difficult for you to provide the needed day-to-day care, due to a job or other family responsibilities.
  • If the person with MS is becoming depressed because they feel they are a burden to their loved ones.
  • If you notice that you are becoming impatient when supporting a loved one who attempts to do tasks more independently.
  • When caring for a loved one begins affecting your or another family caregiver's health.
  • When getting your loved one to and from appointments becomes difficult to do by yourself—at some point this may require two people.


Should you or your family experience one or more of these issues, contact a licensed home care agency, such as Partners in Care, to hire a nurse to come out and do an assessment and/or a home health aide to provide personal care, companionship or respite care.


Lainie Messina, Vice President of Private Care Services for Partners in Care, is a sitting member of the National Multiple Sclerosis society’s long-term advisory committee. She and clinical manager at Partners in Care Renata Gelman, RN, BSN are experts in delivering care to individuals with MS who wish to remain independent and happy in the comfort their own homes. Partners in Care, a not-for-profit organization, is an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the largest home health care agency in the nation. Composed of more than 8,100 home health aides, RNs and LPNs and office staff, Partners in Care provides a wide range of comprehensive private pay home care services, including private pay, in all five boroughs of New York City as well as Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland Counties. Since 1983, Partners in Care has provided certified in-home caregivers who are experienced, compassionate, reliable and highly attentive to the individuals they care for, including those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. The in-home team is supported by well-trained staff members who help coordinate schedules and doctors’ orders, as well as provide continuing education and on-the-job training. Accredited by Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP) and licensed by the New York State Department of Health, we provide quality services to over 1,500 clients every year. For more information call 1-888-9-GET-HELP or visit www.partnersincareny.org.