Time to Cool Down – Cooling Vests for MS Heat Sensitivity

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Though spring has just begun for many around the country, some individuals may already
be thinking about the upcoming summer months and what that means – heat! For individuals with MS who experience heat sensitivity with their MS symptoms, the idea of facing the heat and humidity the summer season brings can be stressful. But it’s important to know there are some ways you can cool your body down and feel some relief with those hot and humid days. MSAA offers a Cooling Equipment Distribution Program which provides different ice-pack style cooling vests and accessory options that can be worn on the body for relief from the heat. With differing vest styles ranging from those that can be worn under or over your clothing, and kit accessories that include cooling wrist and ankle wraps, the program has something to fit individual needs. For more information, see the MSAA website at http://mymsaa.org/msaa-help/cooling/.

*Please note the program eligibility requirements within the application.

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Spring into Action

Spring into Action

Well, it’s officially spring… although I know a lot of people up north would disagree with the cold weather… but I thought I would talk about some of things that I do to “Spring into Action” around this time of year.

Since the weather is actually REALLY nice in Texas right now, I’ve been trying to spend a lot of time outside… and for those of you who enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, there are some things we need to take into account. Like… how long should we stay outside? For me, it’s all about reading the signs my body gives me. If I start to feel overheated, I go into shade, or go inside. If I’m REALLY overheated, like I get in the 100+ Degree Weather we have in Texas during the summer, a cold shower always helps!

Now, before it gets TOO hot outside, there are some things you can do that will help you manage the heat later on. Do you have any MS Cooling Packs? If not, I highly recommend checking out MSAA’s Cooling Distribution Program. I’ve come to find that the Cooling Neck & Upper Spine Wrap, from Polar Products, really cools my core temperature. Also, there are those little Wrist Cooling Wraps that help as well. Also, when sitting outside on those hot summer days, I LOVE my Cooling Seat Cushion. Now these are just my personal opinion that I’ve found through trying different types of cooling products that help me out, and that I also don’t have to put on under clothing.

When it comes to any type of cooling product used for Heat Intolerance & MS, I feel like it’s a personal preference. The ones listed above are what I use when I’m just sitting outside, watching the kids play, etc. But when it comes to doing things outside like going on walks, yard work, etc. This is when I would use my Cooling Vest. There are A LOT of different types to choose from, so again, personal preference. By clicking on any of the links above, it will take you to different things offered by Polar Products. But there are other Cooling Product Companies out there; I just listed the ones that I have personally used.

Now, I know that a lot of us made some promises to ourselves for the New Year to become more active, eat healthier, etc. I’ve been doing that… and I have a gym membership… and I can say that the exercise that I can do the easiest is swimming. I did make sure that the gym I got a membership to had an INDOOR pool, because with the way the weather has been lately, you never know what you’re going to get.

I’m not going to say it was REALLY easy beginning exercising regularly again, but I do enjoy it. I think one of the most frustrating things I’ve been dealing with is the fact that I was so used to what I was able to do BEFORE I got MS, when I was in Athletics in school, Swim Team and things like that. But I’ve come to the realization that if I don’t want to overdo and aggravate my MS & MS Symptoms, that I have to make a new routine. It takes time, but I feel like I have more energy now. I don’t go to the gym every day, but I do try and walk a little bit on the days that I don’t.

Now about this whole “eating healthy” thing… let me just say that I am a born & raised Texan, and I love my southern food and Mexican food… so this is a REALLY tough issue! I’m not being REALLY intense with it, but I am watching my portions and things like that. I won’t ever be able to stay away from carbs and all of that yummy stuff that I crave, so I decided I wasn’t going to make a plan that I wasn’t going to fully stick with. But by watching my portions and having small snacks in between meals, it’s pretty easy, for me anyway. Oh, and let me just tell you that I am a VERY picky eater and don’t eat the suggested fruits and vegetable intake that you’re supposed to, but I did find a yummy supplement at a health store that I mix with water in the morning and drink that with my breakfast (it tastes like candy, by the way) and that way, I have had my “suggested daily fruits and veggie intake.”

Okay – I hope I didn’t overload you with all that information, but I did want to cover a few of those topics that I know are really popular right now. I hope everyone is outside enjoying the weather- if it’s not too cold, that is.

For more information about Resources for your MS, check out MSWorld’s Resource Center.

Best Wishes!

Ashley Ringstaff – Volunteer for MSWorld.org

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Announcing MSAA’s New Online Aquatic Center

Online Aquatic Center

MSAA is pleased to unveil the Swim for MS online Aquatic Center at SwimForMS.org – an exciting new resource for individuals with MS and healthcare professionals.

Swimming and other forms of water-based exercise have well-established health benefits for many fitness levels. For people diagnosed with MS, the cooling and buoyant properties of water can create an ideal exercise environment allowing for movements that may not be possible on land, while keeping them from overheating. Research suggests that the benefits of water-based exercise for individuals with MS include improved flexibility, muscle strength, mobility function, psychological well-being, and overall quality of life.

The Swim for MS online Aquatic Center features resources developed to help you learn more about aquatic exercise, including the following sections:

• About Aquatic Exercise and MS – Comprehensive information about the benefits of aquatic exercise and how water-based activities can be adapted to fit all levels of ability Tip Sheetand types of MS
• Aquatic Resources – Tips and suggestions on how to begin an aquatic exercise program and where to find a pool in your area
• Multimedia Center – Inspirational videos of people living with MS who incorporate swimming and aquatic classes into their healthy lifestyle plan
• For Healthcare Professionals – Research findings and supportive information on aquatic exercise and MS for neurologists, physical therapists, rehab specialists, and aquatic fitness instructors

To learn more about aquatic exercise and MS, please visit our new online Aquatic Center at SwimForMS.org!

The Swim for MS online Aquatic Center has been developed through a collaborative sponsorship with Genzyme, a Sanofi company.

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Welcoming Spring with New Activities for the MS Community

March 20th marks the first day of spring, and for many, you can start to see and feel the
signs that summer is approaching. The days become longer, the air becomes warmer, and the plants begin to grow again. I personally am looking forward to the evenings on the porch after work. – sitting with my feet up, just watching as the neighbors stroll by. The neighborhood becomes active again, with people stopping to say ‘hello’ instead of running inside to beat the cold. Wildlife starts to show their furry faces, popping by the porch to grab some treats.

Over this harsh New Jersey winter, I began to create a list of things that I wished to accomplish once the weather became milder. I welcomed 2014 as the year to try something new, and have pushed off many of these new things until now. Cabin fever has gotten a hold of me and I can’t wait to get out! I plan to become more active, but not in a physical sense. I want to spend more quality time with people and enjoy just being present in the moment. Taking the time to fully invest myself in a task with a friend, without thinking about the thousands of other things I need to do, or rushing off to the next event.Spring email sign-up_edit

With the nice weather, you may also wish to be more active, perhaps joining an MS group,
or attending an educational MS event in your area. MSAA provides free local MS events throughout the country where you can learn about a certain topic, often presented by an MS specialist. The Calendar of Events on our webpage provides information on the type and location of these events. Events are continually being added every day. If you register with MSAA, you can receive information via e-mail or regular mail when an event is coming to your area. Registration is available on our webpage, or, you can reach out to our helpline at 1-800-532-7667 ext. 154 and a helpline consultant will be happy to take your information.

So what do you look forward to most in the spring? Do you have any plans or things you would like to try?

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If you need health insurance…

Don’t forget that Open Enrollment for purchasing health insurance through the new Health Insurance Marketplace ends this year on March 31st. 

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If you need health insurance and have not already visited the website www.healthcare.gov or called an Insurance Navigator at (800) 318-2596, do it now! Give yourself time to make an informed decision about the best options for you. Five million Americans have already enrolled.

Remember, once the 2014 Open Enrollment period closes, you will not be able to purchase insurance until 2015 Open Enrollment begins, unless you have a qualifying life event (such as the loss of a job or the birth of a new baby). 

Need more information? You can also review MSAA’s website for important information about how the ACA impacts you.

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Commonly Missed Medical Expenses for Tax Deductions

By Matt Cavallo:

The change of the season can only mean one thing: taxes! I can’t turn on my TV or radio right now without hearing an advertisement for tax preparation. Whether you prepare your own taxes or use a tax preparation service, one of the most overlooked areas for tax deductions are medical expenses. In this blog, I will provide a list of deductions that you may have overlooked in previous years.

As a person living with multiple sclerosis, your out-of-pocket medical expenses can be extremely high in any given year. You probably know that your out-of-pocket medical expenses are deductible, but do you know what is considered a medical expense? For example, did you know that the mileage for all the trips you made back and forth to the neurologist, MRI scan or other doctor appointments are tax deductible? If you did not record the mileage during the appointments, don’t worry. Your explanation of benefits from your insurance company will list of all the appointments that you would have traveled for. You can then calculate the mileage to and from your appointment online at Google or Mapquest, and then add up total mileage for all of your doctor visits and you’ll get your deduction amount.

This is just one example of many tax deductions that people living with MS miss every year. Other items that you can write off as a tax deduction include items that insurance may not cover, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care; medical equipment; medications; and smoking cessation programs. There are also health expenses that may not be deducted. Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) are all bought with pretax dollars, so your contributions cannot be tax deductible. Also non-prescription medications, medications from other countries and nutritional supplements cannot be deducted.

There are certain items that can be viewed as either deducible or not deductible. While you cannot write off visits that insurance did pay for, did you know that you can write off your self-funded medical insurance premium as a tax deduction? For example, if you pay $400 per month for medical insurance, then that is an additional $4,800 for the year that can go towards your itemized deductions! However, while insurance paid for medical care can be deducted, you cannot write off any premium for extra insurance like life, supplemental or employer-sponsored program paid with pre-tax dollars. Also gym memberships may be a write off – if the doctor writes a letter of medical necessity stating that you need the membership for health reasons, but a gym membership for personal fitness or stress reduction is not considered a write-off.

Life with MS can be expensive. Make sure that you take advantage of tax deductions for all expenses related to your illness. Please note that I am not a tax expert and these tips are to be used for informational purposes only.  Before filling out your medical deductions, please read about all of the deductions that are acceptable and not acceptable located in form IRS Publication 502 – Medical and Dental Expenses. IRS Publication 502 breaks down all of the items that may or may not be deducted. Start spring out right and maximize those healthcare deductions!

Resource:

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf

*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at : http://mattcavallo.com/blog/

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Dental Hygiene and Multiple Sclerosis

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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
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March is MS Awareness Month

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) recognizes March as MS Awareness Month. Throughout the month, MSAA is raising awareness and improving lives today!

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MS Awareness Month is a great opportunity for everyone to learn more about multiple sclerosis and discover all the services and support MSAA offers. 

MSAA offers the following ways to learn and support the MS community:

  • Visit our website, mymsaa.org, which provides easy access to vital information, resources, and tools from your desktop, mobile phone, or tablet.
  • View any of our educational videos and webinars in our MSi Video Library ranging in topic from MS symptom management to understanding Medicare, and much more.
  • Read one of our publications, including MSAA’s award-winning magazine, The Motivator, and the recently published MS Research Update with the latest latest findings in MS treatments and research.
  • Attend one of MSAA’s educational events for people with MS and care partners – check our Calendar of Events to find upcoming programs happening in your area.
  • Check out MSAA’s 2014 Art Showcase, featuring creative and beautiful artwork by individuals with MS.

Help to spread MS awareness by using MSAA’s “March is MS Awareness Month” badge as your social media profile picture (right-click the image below, save it to your computer, then use it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn account profile pictures). 

Also remember to use the hashtag #MSAwareness in your social media posts.

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We look forward to everyone learning more about MS during MS Awareness Month. And we greatly appreciate your continued support of our vital mission of improving lives today for the entire MS community.

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Self-Advocacy for People with Multiple Sclerosis

Different thoughts may come to mind when you hear the word ‘advocacy.’ Some may not be familiar with the term or others may have a very vivid description of what the word means to them. Advocacy can be defined as active support, pleading or arguing in favor of something or for some type of cause. Individuals advocate for themselves in different ways, sometimes without the knowledge that they’re engaging in self-advocacy. When you visit your doctor and ask questions, this is a form of self-advocacy. You are supporting your healthcare by requesting more information to make the best informed decisions you can regarding your care. Some individuals have others assist them with this task at times; family members, friends and caregivers have been known to advocate for care when involved in the healthcare process. Sometimes it’s helpful to have another voice or set of ears advocating for your health needs when interacting with your medical team, and there can be different forms of this advocacy presented.

Here are some ways the MSAA can help you remain an advocate in your healthcare:

  • My MS Manager™:  a mobile-phone application to track disease activity, store         medical information, generate reports, and assist individuals with their treatment      plan
  • MSAA’s S.E.A.R.C.H.™ Program:  tools to help individuals with learning about the approved long-term treatments for MS, along with questions to discuss with the patient’s medical team
  • My MS Resource Locator: an MS-specific, online database offering targeted information and unique support services, including detailed guides

What are some ways you advocate for your care?

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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.

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