So I’m thinking of doing the MS Melbourne Cycle on the 6th of March (you can check out the webpage here if your interested in joining in for the ride or donating) and then I got thinking about MS, about some of the patients I’ve looked after with MS and how we as nurses can make a difference in their lives.
MS can be such a debilitating disease. It affects people in so many ways, and not only the individual with MS, but also their family and friends. It can have a huge impact on their quality of life, so as nurses, we need to help decrease this impact and support people with MS.
I’m not going to talk about what MS is, its symptoms or treatment. What I want to talk about is WHO is MS. WHO are the people we are looking after? WHO is the individual with MS. I hope that makes sense…. Basically because MS is soooo different in so many people, I want to have a more individualized look at it. If you want a bit of a general refresher on MS check out the websites I’ve provided links to at the end of the post.
There are a few things that stand out in my mind when I think about the individual patients I’ve looked after with MS. The first is their sensitivity to heat. This isn’t something that you see on a nursing care plan. But it should be. People with MS have increased heat sensitivity and when they do experience an elevation in temperature it impacts on their ability to conduct nerve impulses and can result in the temporary worsening of their symptoms.
So we know that people with MS have this heat sensitivity. Then they come into hospital and what happens? They get hot. They are stuck in a hospital room, no breeze or movement of air apart from the air conditioning which most of the time seems to have a mind of its own. So we need to not just overlook this, this is a symptom of their disease, what can we do? It can be as simple as getting a fan, getting them an icy cold drink, changing them into some ‘light’ clothes or moving to a different room. It’s not a specific nursing role, but it is something we must do.
Another thing that comes to mind when I think about my patients with MS is how tired they are. 80% of people with MS experience fatigue. And once again I can emphasize, I know how I feel when I get tired, and I can only imagine how horrible it would be to feel tired all the time! As you can imagine, this fatigue significantly impacts on everything! So once again, we need to look at how we can help the person with MS to preserve their energy. This might mean getting an Occupational Therapist in to help with some pacing strategies. Maybe a Physiotherapist to look at a mobility aid that might save them some energy. Or maybe check out their sleep patterns. With bowel and bladder dysfunction as well as muscle spasticity problems, they might not be sleeping much at all.
And with fatigue in mind it brings me to my last point of what stands out to me with MS patients, and that is depression. Not only is the incidence of depression higher in people with MS then the general population, so is the rate of suicide. So when you admit your patient with MS into the ward, ask them ‘do you have a history of depression?’. Depression is one of the most common symptoms of MS, and even if the patient say’s no, I would still be watching them for signs and symptoms of depression and looking at getting them seen by a psychologist whilst they are in hospital.
So that’s just what comes to mind with me when I think about the people who I have cared for with MS. There are many symptoms that I haven’t even touched on, but MS is so diverse that if I were to write about all of them then you would be reading my first book!!
Below are the links which you’ll find more info on MS, including more then the 3 symptoms I’ve chatted about and keep your eye out on Ausmed because I have an article coming up which looks at the nursing care of someone with MS.