People who take care of their own needs while caring for a loved one with multiple sclerosis (MS) are more likely to be successful, and enjoy a mutually rewarding relationship. And the best way to ensure that partners’ needs are met is for them to communicate openly and often.
These were among the main points made by MS specialist and nurse practitioner Megan Weigel of Jacksonville, Florida, during a March 18 webinar titled “The Partnership of Care: Redefining Caregiver to Care Partner.”
Unlike a caregiver situation in which one person mainly helps the other with feeding, bathing, toileting, and other day-to-day needs, a care partnership involves both parties working together to manage the challenges posed by MS while supporting and allowing “each other to thrive,” Weigel said.
The webinar was the third in a series of four sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) to mark Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. The first webinar, titled “Intimacy and Family Planning with MS” and led by family therapist Kimberly Castelo, took place March 5. The second, also led by Castelo, was an online Q&A forum on sex and intimacy and MS. Both webinars are available for viewing by clicking on their titles; the Q&A is available as a transcript for reading.
The last in the series, “Ask Me Anything,” is scheduled for March 25. This Q&A with Lara Krawchuk, social worker, therapist, and wellness educator, will focus on care partner needs.
Weigel has been an advanced registered nurse practitioner for 11 years, and an MS-certified nurse for eight of those years. She received her doctor of nursing practice degree in 2009, with a focus on preventive healthcare in MS patients. Weigel was chosen as one of Jacksonville’s “40 Under 40” by the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2010, and that same year received an Outstanding Young Alumnus award from the University of Florida.
Care partner health problems
According to Weigel, spouses are most likely to be the care partners, followed by parents and siblings. And since MS tends to affect three to four times as many women than men, the care partners are often men in the early stages of their careers with young families.
Care partners are twice as likely as the general population to suffer from depression, while chronic stress increases their risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, she said. They’re also often sleep-deprived, and they don’t exercise, don’t stay in bed when they’re sick, and tend to have poor eating habits.
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