The human body is so smart. It’s almost perfect. When bacteria or viruses make their way into the body, the immune system stands as guards to protect the body from these foreign invaders. The immune system dispatches thousands of cells to attack and kill foreign invaders. Thus, it prevents you from being sick. All is well, right? What happens if unnecessarily the guard cells suddenly attack your body cells, because the immune system perceives it to be foreign cells, an enemy?
You now have what you call an auto-immune disease. When the immune system attacks, say your skin or your joints or any other organ, because it believes they’re “enemies,” it is releasing what is called autoantibodies, proteins that attack healthy cells.
Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) are just some of the autoimmune diseases. But perhaps one of the most debilitating ones is multiple sclerosis or MS. Salt Lake City, Akron, or New York City. It doesn’t matter where you are. Go to the nearest hospital if your friend or loved one has experienced shaking attacks, falling, or defective speech. If the diagnosis comes out as MS, and you feel the need to be supportive, the following discussion is for you.
An Overview of MS
The National Institutes of Health estimates that roughly 23.5 million Americans are suffering from an autoimmune disease. There are also signs that this figure will continue to rise. The National MS Society indicated in a study that about one million people in the U.S. have MS. More women are affected than men, with a ratio of 4 is to 1.
They fall. They drop things. Their memory is hazy. And as Selma Blair said, a Hollywood celebrity afflicted with the disease, one side of her body is guided by a broken GPS. It doesn’t know where to go. Doctors dismissed Blair. She reached out to fellow actor Michael J. Fox, who himself has Parkinson’s disease. Their conversation started, and Blair is back to work despite her handicap. You need to be the Michael J. Fox of your loved one with an MS. And here are a few things that you should do to help.
- Realize and deal with uncertainty. Doctors don’t know the cause. The symptoms differ from one person to the next. Understand and learn to deal with the possibility of the disease. Use the information that you gather about other people as information and not as facts where you will peg your hopes on. Understand and celebrate your little successes.
- Share the burden. They would need help in every aspect of their lives, from doing the laundry to going to the grocery stores. The chores at home would have to be shared by you and others. Make a schedule so that everyone in the household takes a turn in doing the chores and errands. If you’ve hired a caregiver, make sure that they fully understand what is expected of them.
- Patience and communication. Remember, they are struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally. You need to be patient, especially when they seem forgetful, and you need to repeat yourself. It’s part of the symptom. Learn how to adjust. Communication is critical, but it shouldn’t be forced on your loved one who’s sick. Let them take their time. They will share when they feel the freedom and the confidence to do so.
You can’t be helpful if you don’t take care of yourself also. Always put this in the equation. Learn how to step back to recharge your batteries without sending a message that you’re withdrawing. Assure them that you will always be there.