Managing Multiple Sclerosis in Seniors: Tips for Maintaining Physical and Cognitive Function

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It is characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, leading to a wide range of physical and cognitive symptoms. While MS can affect individuals of any age, it is more common in seniors and can present additional challenges for maintaining physical and cognitive function. In this article, we will explore tips for managing MS in seniors and maintaining physical and cognitive function.

Maintain a Healthy Diet and Exercise Routine

One of the most important things seniors with MS can do to maintain physical and cognitive function is to follow a healthy diet and exercise routine. A balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help seniors with MS maintain a healthy weight, improve energy levels, and support brain health. Exercise, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, can also help seniors with MS maintain physical function and improve mood (Guitierrez-Martinez et al., 2018). It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine to ensure it is safe and appropriate for the individual’s abilities and limitations.

Get Enough Sleep and Practice Stress Management

Maintaining good sleep hygiene and practicing stress management techniques can also be beneficial for seniors with MS. Adequate sleep is important for overall health and well-being, and can help seniors with MS manage fatigue and improve cognitive function (Meltzer et al., 2012). Stress management techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga, can help seniors with MS manage their symptoms and improve overall well-being (Bouhassira et al., 2012).

Stay Social and Engage in Cognitively Stimulating Activities

Staying social and engaging in cognitively stimulating activities can also help seniors with MS maintain physical and cognitive function. Socializing with friends and family, either in person or through virtual methods, can help seniors with MS maintain connections and improve mood (Crawford et al., 2020). Engaging in activities that challenge the brain, such as reading, puzzles, or learning a new skill, can also help seniors with MS maintain cognitive function (Chiaravalloti et al., 2014).

Use Assistive Devices and Modify the Home Environment

Using assistive devices and modifying the home environment can also help seniors with MS maintain physical function and independence. Assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, or scooters, can help seniors with MS maintain mobility and reduce the risk of falls (Sliva et al., 2020). Modifying the home environment, such as installing handrails, removing tripping hazards, and adding seating in key areas, can also help seniors with MS navigate their home safely and comfortably (National Multiple Sclerosis Society, n.d.).

Consider Medications and Other Treatments

Seniors with MS may also benefit from medications and other treatments to manage their symptoms and maintain physical and cognitive function. Medications such as disease-modifying therapies and steroids can help slow the progression of MS and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups (National Multiple Sclerosis Society, n.d.). Other treatments, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, can help seniors with MS maintain physical and cognitive function and improve quality of life (National Multiple Sclerosis Society, n.d.).

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Seniors with MS can take a number of steps to maintain physical and cognitive function. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, getting enough sleep and practicing stress management, staying social and engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, using assistive devices and modifying the home environment, and considering medications and other treatments can all be helpful in managing MS and improving overall well-being. It is important for seniors with MS to work closely with their healthcare team to develop a management plan that is tailored to their individual needs and abilities.

References

Bouhassira, D., Attal, N., Alchaar, H., & Boureau, F. (2012). Management of chronic pain in multiple sclerosis. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 12(5), 661-675.

Chiaravalloti, N. D., & DeLuca, J. (2014). Cognitive rehabilitation for individuals with multiple sclerosis: A systematic review. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 20(9), 944-958.

Crawford, C., et al. (2020). Social connectedness in multiple sclerosis: An integrative review. Disability and Rehabilitation, 42(23), 3061-3070.

Guitierrez-Martinez, O., et al. (2018). Exercise as a therapeutic intervention in multiple sclerosis: A systematic review. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 386, 128-136.

Meltzer, L. A., Tippett, W., & Smith, M. A. (2012). Sleep, fatigue, and cognitive function in multiple sclerosis. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, 12(6), 761-770.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society. (n.d.). Home modification and assistive devices. Retrieved from https://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-well-with-ms/daily-life/home-modification-and-assistive-devices

Sliva, D., et al. (2020). Fall prevention in multiple sclerosis: A systematic review. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, 42, 102113.

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