Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is scary — you don’t know the whys, whens or hows when it comes to the disease. Patients and their loved ones often have a long list of questions, that unfortunately, don’t come with any answers. To make life with MS a little easier, we’ve put together six tips from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that may help you deal with the unknowns of the disease.
1. With or without MS, relationships aren’t easy.
All relationships require energy and effort, go through up and downs, and face challenges even when there is no disease affecting the family. A multiple sclerosis diagnosis does not just affect the patient but the whole family and recognizing that is the first step to coping with MS in personal interactions. It’s also important not to try and compare families and relationships, or think about what life would be like without the disease. Every family has its own problems and difficulties.
2. Think before disclosing MS.
Consider who to tell about a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Some patients will want to tell their whole family, while others may prefer to just tell their partner, or in some cases, not tell anyone at all. Patients should also think about what their family members will need to understand about the disease once they disclose the diagnosis.
3. Keep the relationship balanced.
MS affects the whole family, including partners. In a relationship, it’s normal for the MS patient’s partner to worry about their health and well-being. However, the National MS Society recommends that everyone tries to keep the relationship balanced. In order to do that, it’s important that both partners give and receive in the relationship, regardless of the alterations that MS brings to the family. It’s also important to preserve communication and intimacy.
4. MS patients can be parents, too.
Patients with multiple sclerosis are often concerned about the future, including the demands of having children. This can bring additional stress and even sadness to the relationship. However, “women and men with MS can be successful parents of happy, healthy children,” according to the National MS Society. The best option is to seek a physician and discuss an eventual pregnancy. The organization also offers resources for patients to learn more about conception, pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding, and the impact of childbearing on MS, as well as about parenting and discussing the disease with children.
5. Caregiving is Love.
In a great number of cases, patient caregivers are family members. In some cases, patients may feel guilty or sad about the situation. However, there’s no reason to associate caring for a loved one with anything negative. Caring for a loved one who suffers from a chronic disease like MS can bring people together. This doesn’t mean that caring isn’t difficult. Being a caregiver can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but it’s important to avoid any negativity from caring and seek help when needed.
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