Wellness is an active state of physical, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing that you can achieve even in the presence of a chronic illness or disability such as multiple sclerosis (MS).
For a person living with MS, the road to wellness involves more than treatment of the disease. Equally important are health advancement and prevention strategies, satisfying personal relationships, a strong support network, fulfilling work, relaxation and a meaningful place in the community.
Planning for the future
Although MS is a progressive disease, the rate of progression differs from one person to another. No one can predict with any certainty how far or fast a person's MS is going to progress or what the outcome is likely to be. However, there are some factors that can help you and your family plan more effectively for the future:
The key message to anyone living with advanced MS is that there is always more that can be done to improve the current situation. Find a MS doctor who will partner with you and other members of the health care team to manage your symptoms and maintain your quality of life.
Rehabilitation programmes focus on function – they are designed to help you improve or maintain your ability to perform effectively and safely at home and at work. Rehabilitation professionals focus on overall fitness and energy management, while addressing problems with accessibility and mobility, speech and swallowing, and memory and other cognitive functions.
Learning to redefine control and independence
Sometimes MS symptoms can progress to the point that they significantly interfere with daily activities. Changes like this can threaten your self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. When this happens, remember that maintaining control and independence in everyday life doesn't necessarily mean doing everything the same way you did it before.
By allowing yourself to do things differently, you gain access to the world of assistive technology (AT) and labour-saving tools and devices that allow you to stay active and productive. Rehabilitation professionals can help you navigate the world of AT and modify your environment at home and at work to optimise control and independence.
Dealing with emotional ups and downs
Depression and other mood changes are common in MS and grief is a normal reaction to the changes and losses that can accompany advanced MS. Remember that your physical health can affect your mental health. A counsellor or therapist may help you put things in perspective, as well as teach you coping skills and relaxation techniques that may be helpful.
A positive approach is to join a support group where you can share experiences and feelings with other people who have similar concerns.
People with more advanced MS are at greater risk for certain kinds of complications, such as osteoporosis, pressure sores, aspiration pneumonia and bladder or kidney infections. Schedule regular check-ups with your MS doctor to reduce your risk of complications and report any unusual fevers or changes in your symptoms.