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What is Multiple Sclerosis and How Will It Affect My Parent’s Mobility (and Memory)?

If your parent has received a late-onset Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis, it's essential to understand the disease and the care required to prepare you for the road ahead.

This article will help you understand what MS is and how it affects the patient’s mobility and memory.

what is ms

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the central nervous system – your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. MS is an autoimmune condition, meaning that the immune system mistakenly attacks your nerve cells, which results in disrupted communication between the brain and the body.

While MS is usually diagnosed before age 50, there's an increasing number of late-onset diagnoses of MS in older adults (50+), according to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. Diagnosing MS in older adults can be difficult since the symptoms can overlap with other age-related conditions, such as stroke, Parkinson's, or dementia. The symptoms can also be mistaken for general aging concerns, such as tiredness, memory loss, and lack of balance, which are easily dismissed.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Impact Mobility?

Recent studies indicate that people who are diagnosed with MS later in life are more likely to develop serious mobility issues significantly faster, in comparison to those diagnosed at a young age. Common mobility challenges related to MS include:

  • Coordination problems
  • Vision issues
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Balance issues
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Fatigue

Over time, these symptoms may progress, causing the patient to require assistance in day-to-day activities, such as walking, dressing, and feeding. The inability to control muscles can also be coupled with numbness, which can make daily tasks even more difficult.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect Memory?

Since MS affects the central nervous system, it is not atypical to see a decline in cognition and thinking patterns. Around 55% of people with MS tend to show mild to moderate changes in memory. Commonly, MS can affect both long-term and short-term memory, which can manifest the following symptoms:

  • Difficulties in recall and memorization  (trouble recalling conversation, episodic events, …)
  • Lack of attention and concentration
  • Problem-solving issues (trouble dealing with simple cognitive tasks)

Helping a Parent With Multiple Sclerosis Live Safely at Home

Planning and making adjustments for your parent are necessary to ensure their well-being and help them on the MS journey. Mobility aids such as crutches, and home modifications, such as grab rails and stair lifts, can help to increase their independence and prevent fall risks.

However, as the disease progresses, balancing work, other commitments, and taking care of your parent might become overwhelming, therefore considering hiring professional help may become necessary.

Home Care companies could be beneficial in providing assistance in daily activities, such as:

Multiple Sclerosis, particularly late-onset MS, can be challenging. However, with the right care and support the transition can be easier both for you and your parent. 

Staying Mobile 
Memory and thinking
Multiple Sclerosis
Late-Onset MS: Disease Course and Safety-Efficacy of DMTS

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