Adapting to change

Flexible roles
People with severe MS often lose their independence, and their caregivers sometimes take on more responsibilities. This shift can be a source of confusion or anxiety.

Sometimes the caregiver and the person with MS will have different perspectives about the same issue – about adaptations, medication side effects, or how best to schedule hired help. MS affects everyone involved, but it affects everyone differently. It might help to remember this.

MS is extremely changeable and unpredictable, and this can be difficult at first for a caregiver to understand. People with the condition experience periodic attacks of symptoms and remissions, and the loss and recovery or partial recovery of abilities. One day a person with MS can make dinner by themselves and button their shirt, and the next day they may require help for even the simplest of tasks. The caregiver often has to be flexible and help with tasks all the time, or in spurts.

Caregivers might need to rethink shifting responsibilities for each household chore. For example:

  • Household tasks such as cleaning, shopping, cooking, laundry, child-care, and transportation.
  • Care-related tasks such as dressing, bathing, eating, washroom issues, exercising, transportation, doctor visits, and taking medication.
  • Daily activities such as work, recreation, exercise, and hobbies.

Plan to re-evaluate task assignments to family members and friends, as needs and circumstances change. And make sure to schedule personal time for everyone in the household.

Helping with daily activities
If a task seems impossibly difficult or stressful, there is often an easier way to do it. Your medical team can provide tips and techniques for bathing, dressing, washroom issues, and safe transfers (e.g., from wheelchairs to the bed or bathroom) for the person with MS. The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and other caregivers are also good sources of advice and tips.

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