Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system. The disease causes a distraction of the signals to and from the brain, leading to symptoms of the nervous system. The cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown, but there are certain symptoms that are common in the early, middle and late stages of multiple sclerosis. There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, and the primary goal of treatment is symptom management, especially during the final stages of multiple sclerosis.
Many with multiple sclerosis have symptoms that come and go; however, the symptoms are likely to worsen and become more frequent the older the individual gets. Through the assistance of a neurologist and other health professionals, most can manage the symptoms for the majority of their life. As patients reach the final stages of multiple sclerosis, they require more intensive care through palliative care or hospice care.
How Multiple Sclerosis Progresses
There are different types of multiple sclerosis (MS). The two main types are relapsing-remitting MS and progressive MS. Most with multiple sclerosis are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, which refers to a stage of the disease in which symptoms come and go at varying levels of severity. With progressive MS, there are either short lapses of time between symptoms or no breaks between symptoms. With progressive MS, the symptoms continually worsen.
In the early stages of multiple sclerosis, the symptoms can generally be managed through medication and lifestyle changes. As it worsens, patients tend to require palliative care or hospice care to help maintain quality of life. During the final stages of multiple sclerosis, the symptoms of MS often cause complications that can lead to death.
Common Symptoms & Complications
Before the final stages of multiple sclerosis, patients may have milder symptoms such as muscle and nerve pain, headaches, numbness, tingling sensation and fatigue. In the final stages, symptoms typically worsen. More severe symptoms and complications that may develop during the final stages of multiple sclerosis include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Limited mobility/paralysis
- Speech complications
- Severe muscle pain and spasms
- Mood swings and depression
Many who pass away due to complications caused by multiple sclerosis do so as a result of respiratory issues, although every individual with multiple sclerosis has a unique experience. Although the symptoms can become severe, hospice care can help keep the symptoms to a more tolerable level.
How To Maintain Quality Of Life
Maintaining an active lifestyle and a high quality of life during the final stages of multiple sclerosis is difficult, but it is possible with the right care plan in place. The first step is to acknowledge that symptoms are getting worse and be proactive. Along with the assistance of family members, a neurologist and other healthcare professionals, individuals with multiple sclerosis can ensure they have the care they need.
Although many physical activities may not be an option during the final stages of multiple sclerosis, staying as active as possible is helpful for many. Mental exercises, pain relief medication and having frequent conversations with loved ones may all help with maintaining quality of life.
How Families Can Help
The best way family members can help a loved one who is dealing with the final stages of multiple sclerosis is by planning for their needs ahead of time. This is why it is important for loved ones to understand what to expect in the final stages of the disease.
Patients may need advanced in-home medical equipment as symptoms worsen. They may also need assistance communicating, depending on the type of symptoms they exhibit. In addition, be sure to help make sure your loved one visits their primary care doctor regularly.
It is also essential families do not take on more than they can reasonably handle when caring for someone in the final stages of multiple sclerosis. Most in the final stages of multiple sclerosis are eligible for hospice care, and hospice care teams can take the burden of care away from the family and provide holistic care the patient likely requires.
How Hospice Care Can Assist
Hospice care helps patients with multiple sclerosis manage their physical symptoms, deal with emotional stress and provides other services, such as spiritual counseling. They also assist with activities of daily living, which often become more complicated during the final stages of multiple sclerosis. This may include eating, dressing, brushing, bathing and exercising.
A main goal of hospice care is to help patients maintain quality of life despite their terminal illness. It can take responsibility away from family members and allow them to focus more on spending quality time with their loved one, rather than caring for them around the clock.
Speak With An Experienced Hospice Care Provider
Speak with Harbor Light Hospice today for more information about the final stages of multiple sclerosis or other terminal illness. We can help you decide if hospice care is right for you and your family and answer any questions you may have about the different types of care available, and how you and your family could benefit from our hospice care services. Give us a call today at 800.419.0542 with any questions or contact us online for more information.