The major challenge patients with multiple sclerosis face is nearly constant muscle weakness and fatigue caused by progressive nerve and neurological damage. It is well established that these symptoms dramatically affect quality of life in MS patients, making it more difficult to work, partake in hobbies, and enjoy family and social interactions.
According to Matthew Plow, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, patients with MS tend to feel significantly less confident as a result of their daily battle against the depressive and debilitating effects of the disease. With this insight, he and his research team plan to develop a new intervention that will help MS patients build confidence, enabling them to be more active and engaged in their daily life.
Plow and his team of researchers designed a study that sought to identify the factors that hindered MS patients from pursuing typical activities that they enjoy the most. They surveyed 335 patients with a median age of 53 years and asked them to rank 20 activities according to level of importance. On average, the patients in the study had been living with MS for 15 years and almost 60% confirmed they used some form of mobility aid.
The survey revealed the following activities as most important to MS patients: getting out and about, spending time with family and friends, managing bills and expenses, and participating in clubs and civic and political events. With this information in hand, the investigators thought of ways to help improve patients’ quality of life by first identifying the barriers to making improvements in lifestyle behaviors, which they found were hampered by issues that are well documented in the MS community: a lack of confidence, physical and mental impairments, and environmental factors.
The researchers concluded that because those with MS struggle daily with the disease’s debilitating symptoms, along with environmental factors such as inadequate social support and transportation, they tend to feel less optimistic about taking control of their condition and engaging in activities or lifestyle modifications that can improve their health. This lack of motivation can carry over to how motivated they are to cope with depression, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition.
From the findings of this survey, Plow and his team are now working on a new approach that can help MS patients rebuild their self-confidence in making more positive health and lifestyle decisions. The new program provides MS patients with individual steps to make meaningful changes and learn new skills for engaging in activities that will help build confidence and independence. Plow believes that if his new intervention can put MS patients on a path toward feeling more confident in their ability to conduct daily lifestyle routines, that quality of live scores can improve for MS patients overall.