Caregivers need to remember to care for themselves, too

When someone is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it causes a ripple effect in the family

When someone is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it causes a ripple effect in the family, like a pebble tossed in an otherwise still and serene pond.

“Our clients are not only people living with MS, but their families, paid health care workers, their spouses — everyone affected,” said Terri Blanchard, client services co-ordinator for the Central Alberta Chapter MS Society.

She said caregiving can be physically and emotionally exhausting, especially for the person who is the primary caregiver.

A Guide for Caregivers from the MS Society of Canada states it is easy for caregivers to feel invisible as everyone’s attention goes to the person with MS. The strain of balancing employment, child-rearing, increased responsibilities in the home and the care of the ill person may lead to feelings of martyrdom, anger and guilt.

The best way to avoid burnout is to have the practical and emotional support of other people. Support groups, religious advisors and mental health counsellors can help with constructive communication techniques.

While emotional support is out there, caregivers need to understand MS is an unpredictable disease, and they need to learn how to roll with the punches, and always to be prepared for the unpredictable.

And, most importantly, they need to learn how to stay mentally, emotionally and physically healthy, otherwise they too run the risk of becoming ill.

Acquiring knowledge about MS is helpful and resources are available.

To obtain additional information about caregiving and learn what services are available locally, contact the Central Alberta Chapter MS Society at 403-346-0290 or visit www.mssociety.ca for a list of MS Society of Canada publications.

The Canadian Home Care Association (CHCA) is a national not-for-profit association dedicated to ensuring the availability of accessible, responsible home care and community supports that enable people to stay in their homes with safety, dignity and quality of life. Their website is www.cdnhomecare.ca

The Accessible Transportation Directorate –Canadian Transportation Agency is responsible for ensuring undue obstacles to the mobility of people with disabilities are removed from federally regulated transportation services and vehicles. Their website is www.cta-otc.gc.ca