Avoiding Burnout When Caring for Someone With Progressive MS

How to stay on top of your own wellbeing while caring for someone with progressive MS.

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Medically reviewed in November 2022

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disorder that damages healthy nerve tissue, particularly myelin, the fatty substance which functions as a protective covering for nerve fibers. This damage distorts and interrupts normal nerve impulses, resulting in a wide range of neurologic symptoms. When a person has a progressive form of MS, symptoms and neurologic function will worsen with time, and they may require more assistance with everyday living and taking care of themselves. This can be a major change in the lives of both the person diagnosed with MS, as well as the loved ones who often find themselves acting as caregivers.

Caregiving can be stressful, and the hours, responsibility and demands of caregiving can take a toll on a person’s health, wellbeing, career and relationships. Much of the stress of caregiving stems from the fact that the responsibilities are stacked on top of working, managing a household and all the other obligations of everyday life. Many caregivers experience what is called “caregiver burnout,” and many experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.

However, caregiving can also be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

If you are caring for someone with a progressive form of MS, the following tips may help you cope with the stress of caregiving, and help you take care of yourself while taking care of someone else.

Take care of your own health
Make time to eat well, exercise, and de-stress. Keep up to date on your own healthcare appointments. In order to be the best caregiver possible, you need to keep yourself healthy.

Ask for help
Ask for help when you need it, and accept help when it’s offered. Some caregivers have a tendency to try and take on everything themselves. Ask for help from family members and friends. Also consider what professional services can help—this can be everything from at-home healthcare providers, to cleaning services, to something as simple as having the groceries delivered.

Encourage independence
Another tendency of caregivers is to try and do too much for the person they are caring for. Remember that despite having MS, there are many things the person you are caring for will be capable of doing on their own. Encourage them. This can make for a better situation for everyone involved.

Find ways to make things easier
This goes hand-in-hand with encouraging independence. Find out about mobility and self-care equipment to help you and your loved one manage activities of daily living more easily.

Learn about MS
Read up on the condition. More knowledge about MS can give you more confidence and a better sense of control in your caregiving, and you’ll be better prepared to talk to healthcare providers.

Keep an eye on your own mental health
If you notice you are feeling burnt out, depressed or are not feeling like yourself, talk to your healthcare provider, or seek assistance from a counselor or therapist.

Seek support
There are support groups for caregivers as well as patients, that meet both locally and online. Once again, ask for help when you need it: be open and honest with your family and the people close to you.

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