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When MS Means Mighty Stubborn

By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 4)

Dr. Covey’s fourth habit, “Think win-win,” brings a sense of power to both caregiver and patient. Multiple sclerosis may deteriorate the body and mind, but sufferers of every degree still have an idea of what they want for themselves. Caregivers and loved ones will have to work at communicating individual and mutual needs, but the rewards come in the form of deep stress relief for both parties.

The man who rages over being “allowed” to do the lawn can be approached with a direct, win-win caregiver strategy. He may have never enjoyed doing the lawn before, found ways of ignoring it or avoiding it, but once the MS diagnosis was given, he turned into Lawnmower Man.

Caregivers can voice what’s going on in their minds when situations like Super Landscaper arise. “You never enjoyed doing the lawn before, and we talked about hiring someone” confronts both truth and offers a solution. Following it up with, “If someone else does the lawn, then we have more time to spend together” offers not only truth, but puts the relationship first.

Well meaning individuals may offer comments that put the burden on caregiver and patient. Comments on how overdoing it will upset the caregiver, or make the patient more ill, do not create the win-win situation. Multiple sclerosis has a variety of symptoms and levels at which the person will function. The wise caregiver spots the cycles and uses relationship-focused statements to help guide their loved one to establish a routine that enhances the relationship.

Relationship-focused comments work between parent and child, and vice versa. It is not about a “carrot and stick” philosophy, either. Patients with MS have to deal with the “if you do X, then you’ll get Y result,” often following through with little or nothing accomplished. On some occasions, professional caregivers may “guilt” the patient into following orders, reminding them of family obligations, how their illness stresses the caregiver, or any other permutations on this theme. End result: patient stress and more caregiver stress.

Both caregiver and patient have heard the phrase “you are not MS” repeatedly. An unfortunate truth is that while the individual is not the disease, the disease affects their body and often rights of choice. Caregivers have been given custody of their loved one’s trust in addition to handling various affairs, but the original relationship between the MS patient and caregiver remains. Remembering that relationship and putting it first, both verbally and by action, can offer an independence for caregiver and loved one.

 

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