How to Support Someone Diagnosed with MS
Hearing that a loved one has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know what to say and how to help. Understanding more about MS can help, but the most important thing you can do is let them know that you are going to be there for them through it all.
What is MS?
MS a chronic illness of the central nervous system. The body’s immune system attacks myelin, the protective layer around nerve fibers, causing inflammation, scar tissue, and lesions. The symptoms vary from person to person, and each person’s symptoms can vary over time.
The two most common symptoms of MS are fatigue and difficulty walking. But it can also include tremors, pain, and cognitive issues. MS is most commonly found in a person’s 20s or 30s when they begin to experience early symptoms like:
- Numbness and tingling in their arms, legs, or face
- Weak legs and balance issues
- Vision issues including double vision, blurry vision, or partial loss of sight
There are several types of MS, but the main diagnosis is typically either relapsing-remitting MS or primary progressive MS. Relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form at onset. There are flare-ups of the disease symptoms followed by remissions periods where symptoms are mild or absent. With primary progressive MS, most people experience their neurological function becoming progressively worse over time. When relapsing-remitting MS transitions into progressive, it is called secondary progressive MS.
While your loved one diagnosed with MS will face challenges from this serious chronic condition, most people with MS are able to live a long life.
What’s important to your loved one?
Your loved one went to the doctor with some arm tingling and got diagnosed with a serious chronic illness. If hearing about this is overwhelming for you, imagine how hard it is for them. Right now, the best thing you can do is ask what is important to them right now.
Do they want some time to process? Give them space while letting them you are here for them when they are ready.
Do they want to maintain a sense of normalcy? Then keep things normal. Make some time to hang out and do the things you have always done together.
Do they want you to hold their hand while they visit their doctor? Put it on the calendar.
When a person has a serious chronic illness like MS, they don’t want to feel like damaged goods. They are going to have periods of challenging symptoms, but they are still the person you love with plans, hopes, and dreams. Be there to support them just as you always have.
Find support for yourself.
As you navigate this new reality with your loved one, you’re going to have a lot of questions. The National MS Society can help connect you with an MS Navigator who can connect you with education, resources, and support so you can be a good partner and advocate for your loved one.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides support to individuals and families facing serious chronic illnesses like MS. Call us at 1-888-564-3405 to learn more about how we can help from the time of diagnosis with palliative care to the added support of hospice for end-stage MS.
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