About Samantha Schech

I am a Client Service Consultant here at MSAA. I have my Master's Degree in Social Service from Bryn Mawr College, a school just outside of Philadelphia. Originally from the Baltimore area, I am a huge Baltimore sports fan and am often heard cheering for the Ravens and Orioles. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, traveling, and playing kickball with my friends in an adult sports league.

Dental Hygiene and Multiple Sclerosis

dental

Dental issues can create a problem for anyone, but especially for individuals with MS.  Gum disease, abscesses, and decay can all lead to infections, which may cause MS symptoms to increase.  Often in the management of other health-related issues, dental issues are overlooked.  In coordinating MS doctors’ appointments and follow up’s, it is often a challenge to coordinate dental care as well.

Overall dental health is important for many reasons.  It promotes healthy eating and digestion, allowing our bodies to absorb the right amount of nutrients.  It is also an important factor in enhancing the enjoyment of food and being social.

Individuals with significant fatigue and/or mobility impairment may find office visits beyond those required for their MS care to be particularly difficult to manage. It may be helpful to inform the doctor or office staff of any difficulties you may have with fatigue or mobility.  For many, sitting in the dental chair for an hour can be quite uncomfortable due to these symptoms. Talk with the office staff about ways that this can be managed.  Perhaps, many of the initial “question and answer” type things can be performed while sitting or standing in a more comfortable position.

If the symptoms of MS are impacting the ability to brush and floss, speak with your doctor about other tools or adaptive devices that may be helpful.  If the grip on your toothbrush is too small, perhaps wrapping something around the base such as tape or an ace-bandage may assist with making the grip better.  You may also cut a tennis ball and place the toothbrush through the ball for a larger grip, or fasten a bicycle-type handle to the base.

Although it is recommended to brush and floss, don’t forget about the power of mouth wash.  Many washes offer an antiseptic quality that assists with fighting gum disease.  With gum and infections causing many dental issues, mouth wash may be an appropriate additive to your brushing routine to help try to prevent infections and inflammation.

With the changes in the Affordable Care Act and individuals now receiving greater access to medical care, it may be helpful to contact your insurer to learn about your dental benefits.  For those without coverage or without insurance, there are still many ways to be seen by a dentist.

Check out the following tips on how to find dental care for the uninsured:

  • Check for a local federally qualified health clinic which offers dental services
  • Look into local dental schools. Most of these teaching facilities have clinics that allow dental students to gain experience treating patients while providing care at a reduced cost. Experienced, licensed dentists closely supervise the students
  • Dental Lifelines Network offers information about free dental services in the area for those that qualify.  You can look up information about your state’s program on the program’s website: http://dentallifeline.org/
  • Dial 2-1-1 and connect with your local United Way. You may be directed to free or reduced cost dental services
Share

Intimacy- It’s Not Just About the Physical Relationship

Often when one thinks about intimacy, they think of sex. Intimacy is a process that can involve sex, but does not necessarily have to. Intimacy is defined as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group” (www.dictionary.com). 

There are various forms in which an intimate relationship can occur. One form of intimacy is intellectual intimacy where two people “exchange thoughts, share ideas and enjoy similarities and differences between their opinions.” If they can do this in an open and comfortable way, then they can become quite intimate in an intellectual way. This relationship can occur with a close co-worker or neighbor, in an on-line forum, or with a pen-pal. 

A second form of intimacy is experiential intimacy. With this type of intimacy, individuals would get together to “actively involve themselves with each other.” This can differ from a friendship in that the individuals do not exchange thoughts or feelings. They are just involved in mutual activities. This relationship could occur in an aerobics class, or at a religious center, for example.    

A third form of intimacy is emotional intimacy, where two individuals can “comfortably share their feelings with each other or when they empathize with the feelings of the other person, really try to understand and try to be aware of the other person’s emotional side.” This relationship typically occurs between partners, family members, or close friends. Emotional intimacy may also occur in support groups, where individuals connect on an emotional level because they share similar experiences. 

Every intimate relationship does not have to include all the different aspects or types of intimacy that have been mentioned. Many intimate relationships can exist in any one of the forms mentioned, or any combination of those forms.

This Valentine’s day, be aware of yourself and your emotional needs. Start with the form of intimacy where you feel most comfortable, and reach out to someone close to you. You do not need to be in a physical relationship in order to experience intimacy. 

References:

https://www.counseling.ufl.edu/cwc/types-of-intimacy.aspx

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Intimacy

Share

The Expression of Love

Sunset holding hands photo

Valentine’s Day is a day where we open our hearts and make every effort to shower people with our love.  But for some, the open expression of love is a challenge.  Each individual chooses to share their love in a different manner; some opt for gifts, while others may write poems to express their love.

It is important to understand the ways in which you like to receive love and it’s important to have an open conversation with your partner regarding the ways in which you like to receive love and the ways in which you show your love.

There is a book by Gary D. Chapman called The Five Love Languages.  In this book, the author believes in the importance of being able to express your love in a way that is meaningful to you and in a way that your partner can understand.

Everyone expresses their emotions differently and has a different need when it comes to love.  This book helps to identify yourself and your emotional need, i.e. Love Language.  For example, my love language is Acts of Service; I choose to express my love through the act of doing something for someone else.  If I were in a relationship with someone who needs Words of Affirmation to feel love, the relationship may be stressed because of the differences.

Understanding and knowing your Love Language provides you with a great opportunity to have an open discussion with your partner about your feelings and needs in your relationship.  Take some time to discuss this with your partner and find ways to identify it in your day to day.  Perhaps true acts of love are being overlooked, simply because they are not in your Love Language.

This Valentine’s Day, how will you choose to express your love?

MSAA does not endorse the purchase of any specific product(s). Rather, any brand names are mentioned solely as an informational resource.

Share

The Other Part of Wellness: Emotional Awareness

Throughout the month of January, we have discussed our personal journeys in wellness, but one piece has been missing. Often when we describe wellness, we think of physical activity and healthy eating. But one important piece that hasn’t been discussed is emotional wellness. Emotional wellness is defined as “being attentive to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whether positive or negative” (University of California- Riverside).

In the daily hustle and bustle which is our lives, we forget to think about our feelings and often brush them off or push them away so that we can deal with another task we have been given. The idea behind emotional wellness is to not allow ourselves to push our feelings away.

Becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings can be difficult.  One way to start becoming more aware is to journal. For those who have never kept a journal, starting is the hardest
shutterstock_73933420part. In a previous blog, Dear Diary, I discuss some helpful tips to get started.

Perhaps writing about your feelings is not your thing, maybe talking more openly with a friend or family member would be easier. In everyday conversation, try tuning into your feelings and discussing them more openly. Avoid words like “good,” “fine,” or “OK.” These words are often used when asked how we are feeling, but are not “feeling” words. Some more descriptive feeling words can include “relaxed,” “alone,” or “delighted.” These words provide greater meaning to your emotions and will help you to better understand yourself.

In what ways do you maintain your emotional wellness?

References:

http://wellness.ucr.edu/emotional_wellness.html

 

Share

2013: The Year I Found My MS Voice (Thanks, Dad)

By: Jeri Burtchell 

After 15 years with multiple sclerosis (MS), I was sure I had learned all I needed to know about the disease. I’d heard every old wives’ tale, learned about every treatment, and Googled every symptom–real or imagined. Turns out I learned more in 2013 than my entire decade-and-a-half had taught me previously.

Years ago, my dad encouraged me to become a writer. Why, I had no clue. I’d never written anything he’d read except those anxiety-ridden letters from overseas as a young Army wife. Pleas for domestic advice, they had my folks in tears. Not from worry or concern, but the kind you cry when you laugh so hard you can’t catch your breath.

Dad saw a talent I never saw, but I never forgot his words. So when a friend suggested I apply for a writing job posted on Facebook, I thought why not? I believe in stepping through doors that open for you. If you don’t like what’s on the other side, you can always turn tail and run.

Imagine my surprise when I actually landed the gig. I was officially a freelance writer, covering the MS News for www.healthline.com. After my first article published, I squealed when I saw my byline. But writing a weekly article about MS would be challenging. How could there be “news” every single week? No need to worry.

I’ve stayed quite busy since I donned a reporter’s hat. There is so much going on in research now that even if I wrote a daily article I still wouldn’t cover it all.

From the exciting news that researchers in Germany have successfully rebooted the immune systems of some MS patients, to the less than great news that red wine may worsen MS, this past year has been an eye-opener.

My friends were star-struck when I interviewed Shemar Moore from Criminal Minds about his Bike MS event, but my own heart fluttered when I interviewed Dr. Steven Jacobson, Chief of the Viral Immunology Section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke regarding Epstein-Barr Virus and MS. I guess I’m a bit quirky when it comes to who attains “rock star” status in my world. I’m an unscientific science nerd now and MS stands for More Science, please.

It’s been a fascinating journey to live a writer’s life. Every week is a new topic, with MS the theme. Granted, some news is disappointing (the red wine, again), but there is a constant flow of MS news and that is reassuring to me. Knowing there are people out there who’ve dedicated their lives to finding the answers for us gives me hope.

So when asked what I’ve learned looking back on 2013, it would be to keep digging for the truth. To share the facts that surface each time a researcher publishes a paper on their work in the field of MS.

Having to read those papers and form intelligent-sounding questions to use in my interviews has been an ongoing lesson itself. Lucky for me, I love my job.

My most important takeaway from 2013 is that I’ve seen how valuable each of us are who live with this disease. Research would come to a screeching halt and be nothing but unproven theories if not for us. The real heroes are the volunteers who give of themselves to get us closer to a cure.

Research should be something we all consider, not just those out of options. Studies covering everything from new disease modifying therapies to fatigue, cognitive issues and more are enrolling all the time. You can browse through them using a new tool that Healthline just launched. Even if you don’t intend to join, it should give you renewed hope that a cure could be close.

But does the idea of ingesting a mystery medication in the name of science seem a little too sci-fi for you? Relax! That’s not the only way to get involved.

Sites like www.PatientsLikeMe.com give us the opportunity to engage in research by taking surveys. When you answer questions about your health, you are contributing to a gold mine of data that will help researchers in their quest for a cure.

So, while my Dad never lived to see the day I became a published author, his encouragement lives on in my heart and mind. He was right all along. I just needed to go through that door and find my reason to write. I never would have guessed, all those years ago, that my voice would come after getting MS.

So here’s to 2014! May it bring us good health and happiness, and More Science, please!

References:

*Jeri Burtchell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. She has spoken from a patient perspective at conferences around the country, addressing social media and the role it plays in designing clinical trials. Jeri is a MS blogger, patient activist, and freelance writer for the MS News Beat of Healthline.com. She lives in northeast Florida with her youngest son and elderly mother. When not writing or speaking, she enjoys crafting and photography.

Share

2013-The Year of Changes

2013 has been a pretty substantial year in my life.  As I grow older, I start to reflect back each year, just to stay in tuned with myself.  I have accomplished a lot this year, in starting my career with MSAA, moving, and feeling more emotionally complete.

It is hard not to be sentimental while reflecting back; some of my favorite times are spent talking about past life events or some of the interesting people who have come into our lives.  I strongly believe that there is a lesson in every moment, but sometimes you have to take a step back to see it.

Although our physical surroundings and lives may have changed over the years, our inner souls remain the same.  We are still the same person on the inside.  For many, it can be a challenge to accept these changes; they wish to be the person they were before. However, I think we are that same person, but maybe we have become so bogged down with all of the “stuff” outside of ourselves, we have lost touch with our inner souls.

There is a quote, by Bryant H. McGill, “Change will never happen when people lack the ability and courage to see themselves for who they are”. Take some time this holiday season to find yourself again.  Maybe reach out to an old friend or family member and reminisce about the years.

Share

Planning for the Future: Long-Term Care and Advance Directives

Recently I attended a training regarding long-term care planning that really got me thinking about what I could be doing now that may help my family and me in the future.  For many, this is a difficult topic to think about.  No one wants to plan their end-of-life care, or make arrangements for a nursing home when they are relatively young and relatively healthy.  But the reality is, we do not have a crystal ball, and we cannot predict the future.

According to the presentation, approximately 70% of Americans eventually require some form of long-term care.  With the cost of some facilities ranging from $5000 to $10,000 a month, the idea of self-pay is extremely unrealistic.  Currently, Medicare does not provide long-term care insurance that would provide the additional support for care facilities.  So unless you have a private long-term care insurance plan, or can meet the income guideline for Medicaid, you are stuck paying out-of-pocket for care.  With that being said, it is important to look into long-term care insurance plans early on to hopefully purchase a plan with a decent rate.

Another important tip presented was about having the discussions with your loved ones and family members regarding end-of-life decisions.  This can be a very challenging conversation to have; death and dying are often difficult subjects.  But less than 20% of Americans have an Advanced Directive or a living will.  For the 80% that do not, I am sure a large portion of them have never discussed their wishes with a family member.  Without an Advance Directive, doctors, nurses, and EMT’s will continue to provide life supporting help to prolong your life.  By creating an Advance Directive and creating an end-of-life plan, you are ensuring that your wishes will be followed.

In order to complete an Advance Directive, you must be 18 years of age and of sound mind.  The document must be in writing and signed by two adult witnesses.  It is suggested that you provide a copy of the Advance Directive to your doctor or care facility and provide a copy to a trusting family member.  It was suggested that Advance Directives and other important information should not be kept in a lock box, rather, a storage cabinet along with other documents that may need to be accessed by family members.

This training was an eye opener for me and as if I wasn’t already a neurotic “what if” planner, provided some valuable information.  I wanted to share some of the things I learned in this blog, with hopes to spread the word along to others.

Share

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Planning Ahead When You Have MS

Have you seen the car commercial recently where someone says something along the lines of, “we have to do something about this car”, and the little yellow line pops up and guides them to where they need to be? Wouldn’t that be wonderful, if for every problem in life that we encountered, a little yellow line helped guide us to the right choice?

Although there are no yellow brick roads guiding our way, we do have a chance to prepare ourselves for our future. I have always held true the saying, “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” Although I may be called a cynic for thinking this way, I always feel it is best to have a plan in case things don’t work out the way they were expected.

For individuals faced with a chronic illness such as MS, keeping on track and following the plan are two very important steps. From the very first doctor’s appointment a plan is created; what medications to take, what testing to have completed. It becomes part of a routine. But what happens when that plan falls apart? Maybe you need to switch medications, or you are unable to continue working. You may find yourself asking, “now what’s the plan?”

Having the next step in mind is a way to try and avoid the panic that may set in when life throws you a curve ball. To help keep on track with your MS, it is important to work with your doctor not just about the present MS challenges, but also consider planning for the future. Creating a plan about who to call and what to do if you feel as though you are having a relapse may make the experience feel a little more in your control.

Also, having discussions with family regarding long term plans and making small changes that may assist down the road can lead to less confusion and uncertainty in the future. Perhaps you’ve thought about moving to a more centralized location with more resources, or downsizing to a smaller more accessible home. For some people, these are important considerations for their future plan. What plans have you created or thought of for yourself? Looking back at your life, do you see any areas where you wish you had made a plan?

Share

Talking with Friends and Family about Multiple Sclerosis & its Symptoms

For this month, we focused our blog around managing MS.  Some helpful tips were provided and the one that sticks out to me was about “asking for help”.  Understanding your limits and what you are able to accomplish in a day is a great way to conserve your energy and focus on what is important.  Often times it is important to involve those around you, but navigating the “how to” is a challenge.

For those who struggle with the symptoms of MS that may not be visible (i.e. fatigue, pain, and cognitive changes), the hidden symptoms of MS, asking for help from a friend or loved one can often be a daunting task.  We frequently hear and read stories from individuals who feel guilty asking for help, because they don’t feel that they “look” sick.  They fear they will be judged in asking for help.

It may be helpful, before you tell everyone about your MS symptoms to think; does this person play a significant role in my life? And, can I rely on them in the future if I need help?  If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then it is time to put on your teacher hat and educate those identified helpers about what types of symptoms you experience and what they may look, or sound like, for you.  MSAA’s The Motivator Winter/Spring 2013 edition discusses may of the hidden symptoms of MS: http://www.mymsaa.org/publications/motivator/winter-spring13/.  This publication can be shared with friends and loved ones to further provide education and information.

Not every person with MS experiences symptoms in the same way, so providing information as to how MS looks and feels to you is very important.  With more understanding and better education, we can hope to reduce the stigma around the hidden symptoms of MS and promote a more positive experience for both yourself and your loved ones.

Please share your experiences, have you had to educate your friends and loved ones about the symptoms of MS?  What has worked for you?

Share

The Time is Now to Start Something New: A Quick Step Guide for the MS Community

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”

–Nido Qubein

As the summer comes to an end and we embark on the last few months of the year, it is time to challenge ourselves and start something new.  Just as the kids prepare for the new school year, prepare yourself for a new task.  Is there a goal you wish to accomplish, a skill you would like to learn, or maybe just a good book you’ve been meaning to read?

Starting something new can be scary, especially if you have tried unsuccessfully in the past.  But from failure we can learn, and today is a new day.

  • First, decide what it is that you want to accomplish.
  • Second, set measureable goals for yourself, or mini-goals to help move you along.
  • Third, make it realistic.  Many little successes over time reinforce your goals and set you up for success.
  • Fourth, set a deadline, but make sure to provide yourself with a reasonable amount of time to accomplish the task.
  • Last and more importantly, reward yourself!  Even if you haven’t succeeded, you set out to try something new and have probably learned some things along the way.

Starting now, what goals would you like to accomplish?

Share