Resources for the Caregiver

The role of the caregiver is often described as “the rock” or “the foundation” of the family; the one responsible for the wellbeing of all. But who takes care of you? Just as much as your loved one needs your support, you need support also. It is ok to take a break, and turn to help when you need it. In order to be the best caregiver you can be you need to be well rested both mentally and physically. Being the primary caregiver for an individual with MS can be challenging. The unpredictability of MS itself creates an additional challenge in trying to manage your day to day life.

There are some helpful resources for those in the caregiver role to aid in the management of the daily challenges of caregiving. The Family Caregiver Alliance provides caregiving information and advice as well as a guide to state resources available to caregivers. The Caregiver Action Network offers information and resources to individuals in all types of caregiving situations. The site helps to identify the various needs that caregivers may express through their varying roles.

Another great resource directed specifically towards spousal caregivers is the Wellspouse Association. They coordinate a national network of Support Groups and facilitate a Mentor program. And when the time comes for a break, the National Respite Network provides a National Respite Locator to help caregivers locate respite services in their community. The site also helps to educate caregivers on how to find and choose appropriate respite care.

With so many resources available to assist the individual in the caregiving role, now it is your time to take a break and be the best caregiver that you can be.

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Summer Travel Tips for Flying With MS – Part 2

By Jeri Burtchell

Most people who have MS take medications. Be sure to keep them in your carry-on bag to prevent mishandling or severe temperature changes. Keep a note in your wallet or purse with your emergency contact, medications, conditions, allergies and medical history in case anything should happen away from home.

Pack a sweater in your carry-on. Even if you are traveling from one hot place to another, airports and planes can be veritable iceboxes. Besides using it for warmth, a cushy sweater can double as a pillow.

Pack your own snack. Fruit or nuts, a sandwich or chips, are all going to be cheaper if you bring your own. Airlines occasionally provide snacks, but not always, and if they have snack boxes for purchase you can expect to pay premium prices. The only thing you can’t bring is a drink but most flights offer a free beverage.

Which to choose, the aisle seat or the window? Windows seats have the added benefit of not only providing a view, but a “wall” on which to lean if you tire easily. Aisle seats make trips to the restroom easier. Middle seats, for most passengers,  are the least desirable.

Pack a wall charger for your smartphone in your carry-on. Your itinerary, email and family may only be an electronic device away, but if your battery dies and the airline lost your luggage, you will be cast adrift in an unfamiliar place, unable to access anything. You can usually find an outlet for your charger in any airport terminal.

If you rent a vehicle at your travel destination, ask for one similar to yours at home. Trying to figure out where the wipers and lights are while navigating a strange place just adds unneeded stress.

If you follow these tips, you can avoid unnecessary stress, leaving you free to enjoy your stay. Don’t overdo it, though! Be sure to drink plenty of fluids so you don’t dehydrate, take naps when you body tells you and pace yourself. Make your visit memorable for all the right reasons. Happy travelling!

*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.

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Running on Empty

Have you ever been in a car which has run out of gas? If you haven’t, the car slows… you may coast a bit, but quickly movement putters out. For many people with MS, fatigue can be much the same, one minute you are moving around and then suddenly the momentum changes and your energy level drops. For some people, they may even feel that to take one more step or motion is too much and may need to immediately sit or rest.

In a car there is a gauge which shows you when the gas tank may be getting low, people are not so easy to read. Some people may even feel as though the internal gauge is broken.

So, what can you do to try and prevent your engine from stopping?

Some quick energy conservation tips:

  • Listen to your body
  • Plan for your day (try not to plan too much)
  • If you can, try to schedule rest breaks into your day or activity
  • Talk to your doctor about your experience

For more in depth information on MS Fatigue see the following link: http://mymsaa.org/about-ms/symptoms/fatigue/.

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Preparing for a Doctor’s Visit

Okay, so we all go to doctor’s appointments… and we have to get there early, in order to fill out paper work… and while we’re filling our paper work in the doctor’s office waiting room, we have to try and ‘remember’ everything that we need to write down for the doctor.

So I’m going to share some things that I do, in order to prepare for a doctor’s visit… without forgetting information that needs to be shared.

For starters, I keep a journal. In my journal I keep note of any changes in how I’m feeling or how I’m reacting to medication. It’s also very handy, when I need to write down a question I want to ask my neurologist, and if I don’t write it down right then… I’m going to forget, even if I tell myself that I won’t.

Something I always have on me when I leave the house, (as well as at home saved on my computer), is a medication list. This way, if something was to happen and I have to go to the ER or anything like that, my medication list is always with me.

I can also say that I would be completely lost, if I didn’t program alarms on my phone for upcoming appointments, and to even take my medications! Yeah it’s annoying, but I don’t forget!

Having a list of my medications as well as my journal of how I’m feeling and how I’m doing on medications, etc., really helps when I go to see my neurologist. It also cuts down time that I have to fill out paperwork, which can sometimes be troublesome as I also have issues with Upper Limb Spasticity (in my hands) mainly in the summer months, so it’s not always “easy” to fill out paperwork.

One of the benefits  from keeping things written down  in my journal is that, my neurologist can see what triggered me not feeling better… like I stated earlier, my spasticity gets worse when it’s hotter outside, so I know what has caused the increase in my spasticity. (Mind you, I live in Central Texas, and it’s almost always hot here… so let’s just say “hotter”… like today’s “Real Feel” is 102 Degrees Fahrenheit.)

Now, I don’t carry around a small notebook with me anymore, but I do use my phone to keep notes on how I’m doing. You have to enjoy and embrace technology these days, as the famous saying goes … “There’s an APP for that.” (MSAA does have a mobile phone app, My MS Manager, which offers a journaling feature) It’s all true.

One last tip, if you’re the type of person to forget things easily, like I am see if your doctor would mind if you brought a voice recorder to your appointment. This will allow you to  play back the visit and conversation to yourself when you’re at home. This is especially helpful if your doctor answered some of the important questions you had been waiting to ask.

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National Fruits and Veggies Month

veggiesJune is National Fruits and Vegetable month. While we should be eating fruits and vegetables every month out of the year, June is merely welcoming back the garden-fresh produce that we’ve missed all winter long. The biggest part of eating right for summer is listening to what your body tells you about what it wants to eat. As you approach these summer months, do it with fruits and vegetables in your belly and in your fridge. Stock up on vegetables rich in color. Maybe have a bowl of fruit for a snack instead of chips. Encourage your friends and family to join you in your venture towards a healthier lifestyle!

Cantaloupe, watermelon and tomatoes are great fruits to help you stay hydrated. Great summer vegetables include summer squash, sugar snap peas, corn, bell peppers and onions. Eggplant, zucchini and green beans make a great source of dietary fiber.

fruits and veggies

-Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse: It is full of vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and vitamin A.
-Carrots are a good source of fiber, which helps to maintain bowel health, and aid in weight maintenance.
-Watermelon, which is especially terrific this time of year, offers a juicy, sweet taste and high water content, while packing in antioxidants, vitamin C, and potassium.
-Grapes aid in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure. Eating the whole fruit instead of consuming the juice contains the added benefit of fiber.

Tips for your wallet: Fresh produce is more affordable when it is in season. Also, look for weekly specials on fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and veggies. At a restaurant, always ask what vegetables, including salads, are available as substitutes.

What fruits and veggies will you be adding to your diet this June?

watermelon

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