MS Family and Relationships: 6 Tips for Patients and Loved Ones

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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1. With or Without MS, Relationships are Not Easy


All relationships require energy and effort, go through up and downs, and have to face challenges even when there is no disease affecting the family.  But it is almost inevitable that multiple sclerosis (MS) is an additional challenge in a family’s life. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis does not just affect the patient, but the whole family and recognizing it is the first step to coping with MS in personal interactions. “While MS does pose some additional adversities, it can also enrich relationships and bring people closer together,” state the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It is also important not to try and compare families and relationships,  or think how it would be without the disease. Each family has its own problems and difficulties.

2. Think Before Disclosing About MS


Deciding who to tell about the multiple sclerosis diagnosis is also something to consider. This is a very personal decision. Some people may want to tell all their family, while others may prefer to tell just their partner and not the rest of family, or in some cases, not telling anyone at all. “Telling others about your MS may be the first thing you want to do — or the last. No two people feel exactly the same about disclosing their MS to others. Keeping in mind that once the information is out there, you can’t take it back, the key is figuring out when disclosure is in your best interest and when it is not.” Patients should also think about what their family members need to understand about the disease once they disclose the diagnosis.

3. Keep the Relationship Balanced


While MS affects the all family, in the case of partners MS is experienced by both. In a relationship, it’s normal for the partner of a MS patient to care and worry about the other. However, the society also recommends everyone tries to keep their relationships healthy and balanced. In order to do so, it’s important that both partners give and receive in the relationship, regardless of the alterations that MS brings to the family. It is also determinant 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,” state 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. Clear Any Negativity Associated with Caring


In a great number of cases, the caregivers of patients with multiple sclerosis are family members. In some cases, patients may feel guilty or sad for the situation. However, there is no reason for associating caring for a loved one with anything negative. Caring for a loved one who suffers from a chronic disease like MS can also be satisfying. It may draw people more closely together and it can be an opportunity for family members to share concerns and efforts. This doesn’t mean that caring isn’t difficult. Being a care giver can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but it’s important to avoid any negativity from caring and seek help when needed.

6. Isolation is Always Harmful


Multiple sclerosis is a rare disease, but there are 400,000 patients in the United States alone and many others willing to support and help. There is no reason for patients to be isolated, which can lead to sadness and depression. In addition to the support of family, there are support groups for either or both MS patients and family members. In these, people can share their thoughts and feelings and ease the burden on the family. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society also offers Tips for People with MS and Their Partners – Planning for the Future Telelearning Recording.

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