March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and MSAA is excited to present four full weeks of valuable and inspiring resources, programs, and strategies for all ages! We are dedicated to spreading awareness, education, and support to individuals, families, and care partners in the MS community, and this month is no different. Our MS Awareness Month initiatives focus on “Life with MS: Different Stages of the Journey” and include a multitude of programs that address MS management in all life stages.
Category Archives: Multiple Sclerosis Resources
Shaping the MS Experience: Getting MRIs
A part of the MS experience includes getting routine MRIs. This process can be both daunting and expensive. Did you know that MSAA’s MRI Access Program provides financial assistance for Cranial and C-Spine MRIs?
MSAA’s MRI Access Program assists with the payment of Cranial (brain) and C-spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for qualified individuals who have no medical insurance or cannot afford their insurance costs and require an MRI to help determine a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis or evaluate current MS disease progression.
What does the program offer?Continue reading
I think we can all agree that this Election season has seemed much longer than most. While tomorrow may bring an end to the commercials, debates, and political satire on late night TV (for at least 3 years), it is imperative to remember how important this actually is. Voting has been around officially in the US since 1789 when a then-small number of eligible individuals voted in our first President, George Washington, and his right hand men. Since then we’ve sworn in 43 people to serve in the capacity of President and tomorrow we’ll elect number 44.
While it may feel like it at times, we aren’t helpless in what happens; and while not everyone may be satisfied with the outcome tomorrow, being part of the conversation is up to each and every one of us. Voting is our shot, an opportunity for us all to have a say in who governs our cities, counties, states, and country. While everyone has their own reason for voting for their choice, individuals living with disabilities or chronic illnesses have a vested interest in what comes next and whom our elected officials are. These officials will be responsible for upholding our benefit system, enacting our budgets for public transportation, and charged with making decisions on expanding or ending needed services. They’ll be some of the loudest voices for where research dollars go and be in the room where it happens, as conversations determine the fate of programs and plans that impact our healthcare system.
“Where” or “Who” can you ask questions of, you might ask? On Election Day many disability rights organizations are available by phone to help answer voter questions regarding issues that impact disability services. You can contact your local disability rights advocacy group to learn more about how you may be impacted by the pending election. Also, here are a few tips in regards to getting out to vote:
- Make Sure You’ve Registered! Many states have specific times when you must register to vote in advance. If you missed the deadline this year, make sure to register in advance for future elections.
- Confirm your poll location! Call ahead to your city or county government office and ask for information on accessible transportation, opening/closing times, available parking, or any other needed updates on your polling place.
- Get the phone number! Find the contact number for your State Office of Protection and Advocacy, and bring it with you when you vote. If you run into any barriers such as lack of accessible transportation to the polling site, physical accessibility of the building itself, problem in accessing the voting equipment, or understanding your rights, this is who you can contact. This is also the office that can advise you of your rights in general under the ADA.
I know you might be thinking ‘Does it really matter if I vote?’ YES, Yes It Does. You don’t want to be the person asking ‘What’d I miss?’ or wonder later on what impact your vote could have had. Exercise your right to vote on November 8th. The world and history has its eyes on us, let’s make sure we all do our part to elect our next administration.
Bonus Points if you know how many references to Hamilton are included in this blog. But more seriously, get out and vote tomorrow November 8th…Your Vote Counts!
Long-Term Care Insurance
Have you looked into a Long-Term Care insurance policy?
Long-Term Care refers to help that people with disabilities or chronic, long-lasting illness need over an extended period of time. The type of help needed can range from assistance with simple activities to care provided by nurses, therapists and other professionals.
Some services that might fall under long-term care insurance are:
• Providing you with assistance in your home with daily activities, such as meals, eating, bathing, and light housekeeping
• Nursing home coverage
• Helping with the cost of assisted living facilities
• Visiting nurse in the home or a certified nursing assistant
• Assistance with personal shopping needs
• Adult day care services
• Home modification
• Care coordination
Without a long-term care policy you could spend your savings rather quickly. So purchasing long-term care is important, but it can seem like a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be if you follow some easy steps.
1. Ask a family member/friend to help you if you are overwhelmed with the process.
2. Decide on which services are most important to have covered.
3. Take your time; don’t be pressured by anyone to make a quick decision.
4. Check your current insurance policy to see what is covered.
5. Check with at least 3 insurance companies about the long-term offerings.
6. Research the different plans available in your price range.
7. Get written copies of any policies you are considering and read them carefully.
8. Review everything one last time before signing on the dotted line.
9. Always pay your premiums with a check payable to a company not a person to prevent fraud.
Make the decision that is right for you and that will give you peace of mind.
Life Happens is a non-profit organization that can also explain Long-term Care coverage for you. Please check out their website here.
How Cool Are You?
Summer is fast approaching, so now is a perfect time to remind everyone about MSAA’s Cooling Program.
As the heat starts to build, so do requests for this free MSAA service, so please place your order now before the summer rush. Please know that there is a five-year wait period to reorder any cooling products if you have already received items through the MSAA Cooling Program.
You can download the MSAA Cooling Program application or call MSAA at (800) 532-7667, ext. 130 to request an application by mail. Have a cool and fun summer!
Not eligible to apply for MSAA’s Cooling Program? The following Stay Cool Tips can be used to help fight the heat:
- Portable or personal fans are an inexpensive and quick way to cool the body. The fan helps to circulate the hot air and move it away from the body.
- Try putting a cool rag in front of the fan to circulate the cold condensation from the rag.
- Be mindful of clothing choices. Wear lightweight and loose clothing that allow for air circulation.
- Embrace light colors. Dark colors absorb light and heat, light colors reflect light.
- Search for indoor activities in local shopping malls or stores where air conditioning is always free.
- Window shopping at the mall or a mid-day matinee at the movie theatre is a great way to take advantage of the often cool air provided at these locations.
March is MS Awareness Month
(right-click this image and save it to your computer to use on social media)
MSAA recognizes March as MS Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we encourage everyone to increase their knowledge, understanding, and support of individuals whose lives are affected by multiple sclerosis. MSAA is a great place to start to learn more about MS and you can discover the many ways we improve lives today through our vital programs and services.
MSAA offers the following ways to learn and support the MS community this month and throughout the year:
- With 39 titles and growing, our MSi Video Library contains educational videos and webinars on a variety of topics specifically focused on the MS community.
- In addition to MSAA’s award-winning magazine, The Motivator, we also offer many publications to educate the community including the recently published booklet, Improving Lives Today! A Guide to MSAA’s Programs and Services.
- Throughout the year, MSAA hosts educational events for people with MS and their care partners – check out our Calendar of Events to find upcoming programs happening in your area.
- MSAA’s Art Showcase highlights the amazing artwork created by talented individuals with MS. You can even send an eCard to family and friends featuring the artwork of your favorite artist to help raise awareness about MS.
Interested in helping the MS community?
- Register today for Swim for MS and help raise awareness and funds that directly support the MS community! Getting started is as easy as 1-2-3! Check out MSAA’s Swim for MS video.
- Help us spread MS awareness by using MSAA’s “March is MS Awareness Month” badge (located at the top of this page) as the profile picture on all of your social media platforms. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #MSAwareness in your posts!
Thank you for all of your efforts to help spread the word and raise awareness about MS during MS Awareness Month! We greatly appreciate your continued support of our vital mission of improving lives today for the entire MS community.
Air Travel Tips for the MS Community
By: Matt Cavallo
As the holidays approach, many of us living with a chronic illness are fretting holiday travel. Maybe you would like to travel to see friends or loved ones, but are hesitant because of your illness. You are not alone. Travel is stressful for everyone. Airports are big, busy and fast-paced. Security lines can be long and the thought of standing, unpacking, and repacking at TSA is enough to unravel even the most seasoned traveler. Compound traveling with the upcoming holiday lines and ticket prices and it may be enough for you to forego holiday travel and just stay home.
If you need to travel during the holidays and you are living with a chronic illness, there are several steps that you can take to ensure your airport experience doesn’t exacerbate your illness. The following steps will ensure that your holiday airport experience is as smooth as possible:
Five Steps to Stress-Free Air Travel for People Living with MS
1. Book your travel early. As a rule of thumb, booking your ticket fifty days in advance will get you favorable ticket prices, preferred seating (unless your airline has open seating like Southwest) and better flight time selections. Business travelers typically book fourteen days in advance, so if you wait to the last minute seating will be limited, as will flights, and the price will be higher.
2. Fly during off hours or off days. Much like morning traffic, the airport has rush hours too. My preference is to get the first flight of the day, even if it means being at the airport before the sun comes up. Airports are generally running once the sun goes up until the sun goes down. Whatever you do, avoid the last flight of the day, especially if you have a connection. If you are on the last flight, you have a greater likelihood of missing connections and then being rebooked on a flight the next morning. Mondays, Thursday nights and Friday mornings are business travel days. Sundays can be busy as well. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are light traffic days and typically have cheaper flights.
3. Notify the ticketing agent or gate agent of your condition. If the airport and airline staff are aware of your illness, you can get wheelchair or transportation service (if necessary), medical clearance to get to the front of the TSA screening line and pre-boarding status at the airline. If you have trouble standing or waiting in line, be sure to tell the agents or TSA that you are a fall risk and have weight-bearing precautions making you a risk to stand in line for long periods of time. The number one goal at the airport is the safety of passengers and if you are a fall risk they will make every effort to prevent you from falling.
4. Limit carry-on luggage. Checking a bag is an extra cost (on most airlines), but that cost is well worth it. Check the TSA website for the items that they allow to get through screening. Make sure that if you have to pack liquids in your carry-on, they are a size that meets the TSA standard. They will confiscate any items that are prohibited for travel. Also, if you have limited strength or range-of-motion, it can be difficult lifting your carry-ons to the overhead storage.
5. Relax. The stress and anxiety of flying has many components that are out of your control. Stressing over the things you cannot control during air travel can be enough to make you sick and ruin your trip. If you follow the four preceding steps, you will be able to minimize most stressful airport situations. Unforeseen stressors like weather delays, mechanical failure and gate changes are situations that you cannot predict. If you can relax and take these steps into mind, knowing that whatever unforeseen delays are out of control, you will feel much better both during and after travel.
I fly a lot. Four out of my last six flights have had some kind of issue. I was delayed three hours on a one hour flight to Palm Springs. They loaded the plane, only to unload it and switch us over to a new plane after the delay.
Another time, I arrived in Detroit with plenty of time to make my connection to Akron, but there was no gate available. They said they notified the gate agents, but when I finally arrived at my transfer gate after a half hour delay, the gate agent had just shut the door. And even though four of us were standing there, she refused to open it or hold the plane per policy.
In this case, I didn’t take my own advice. I was on the last flight of the day and they couldn’t get me to Akron until 3:00 PM the following day. I had a speech in the morning, so I had to drive overnight and got to Akron at 4:15 AM. I was tired and groggy, but luckily able to caffeinate myself enough to give a great speech. Even though it worked out for me, the stress and delay were not worth going through that again.
As always, my advice comes from my mistakes. As a seasoned travel, I understand the do’s and don’ts of air travel. I hope that these steps help to make all of your air travel stress free. Safe travels!
*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/
Insurance Enrollment and the MS Community
While the 2014 year slowly comes to an end and individuals start to make their end of year plans, there are still two important dates to keep in mind in regards to open enrollment for health insurance. For those who are uninsured, or who possibly want to make some changes to a pre-existing Medicare plan, open enrollment allows individuals to make changes without penalty.
Medicare open enrollment ends Sunday, December 7th. Up until this date, changes can be made allowing an individual to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, or vice versa. A switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan or to a plan that offers different drug coverage can be made as well. This is especially important to the MS community as medications can often change. If the doctor prescribes a medication that is not covered under a drug formulary, other drug coverage options can be explored that may be more suited to your prescription needs. To explore options, contact Medicare directly at (800) 633-4227 or visit www.medicare.gov.
For more complex issues with Medicare, the Medicare Rights Center offers a helpline to answer your questions about insurance choices as well as Medicare rights and protections. You can reach the Medicare Rights Center at 1-800-333-4114 or visit www.medicarerights.org.
The Open Enrollment Period for individuals eligible to enroll in the Marketplace for a Qualified Health Plan for coverage starting in 2015 is now through February 15, 2015. Individuals can enroll in a plan in the Marketplace by visiting www.healthcare.gov, or by calling (800) 318-2596. These plans are available to those who are uninsured, losing insurance, or who would like to make a change to their existing plan. If you purchased a plan in the previous Open Enrollment period and were not happy with that plan, now is the time to review other options and make a switch if available.
For more information regarding insurance, MSAA’s My Health Insurance Guide is aimed at assisting the MS community with understanding the many details surrounding today’s health insurance options.
Some Extra Holiday Help
There is no doubt that the holidays are rapidly approaching these days, especially with cooler temps across the country and decorations filling the stores as continuous reminders. While this time of year translates into joy and cheer for most, for some individuals this may represent a time when some extra help is needed to make the holiday special. Financial difficulties can make expectations of the holidays a struggle, but it’s important to know that there are resources available that may help support your holiday activities, and therefore lift some of the stress that can accompany these festivities. The following community resources may offer help through the holidays:
- Salvation Army offices offer seasonal services and holiday assistance programs to help families in need with holiday dinners, toys, and clothing. Search for your local office to inquire about direct programs and services and application time frames.
- The United Way can offer information and referrals for holiday assistance programs in your community.
- Contact the county department of family/social services in your area, as their office may have additional holiday assistance and resources available.
- The Toys for Tots Program provides new, unwrapped toys during the holidays to children in need through community outreach and support efforts.
- Local religious organizations may offer seasonal assistance as well, though these programs can vary based on location. Contact the groups directly to inquire of services available.
Many community assistance programs have specific application deadlines and requirements in order to receive holiday assistance by a certain time. Be sure to reach out to the resources to see what’s available in your area and how to apply. Some extra holiday help can go a long way!
Nutrition and Multiple Sclerosis
As we wrap up this month focusing on reaching out to supportive professionals, there is one other group of professionals that plays an important role in the overall health of individuals with MS. One of the top questions asked in regards to MS care is around the idea of a diet for MS, or which foods to avoid for individuals with MS. Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer as there has been no hard science that indicates that any particular food groups are specifically beneficial or not to those with MS.
With MS being a very individualized disease, meaning that it affects each person in a different way, it is difficult to say that one thing will work for everyone.
Just as MS is a very individualized disease, understanding and creating a nutritional plan must be individualized as well. Meeting with a dietitian or a nutritionist may help to better understand the foods and nutrients that your body needs in order to work properly. By working with a professional, he or she can help to safely monitor the changes occurring in your body based on the foods that you add or withdraw, depending on your plan.
Talk to your doctor about a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist in your area. You may also wish to reach out to your insurance provider to learn about insurance coverage for these visits. Licensing and education can vary between those in the nutritional field, it is important to do some research on the professional and their background and beliefs about nutrition. Some nutritionists may have a belief in herbal supplements and other forms of natural healing while others may not. Knowing what you are comfortable with in regards to your treatment and matching that with the appropriate practitioner can aid in the overall process of crafting a healthy regimen for you.