MS is a lifelong medical condition without a cure. However, with the support of a health care team and support system most patients can lead active fulfilling lives.
Many patients who are newly diagnosed with MS fear their future includes wheelchairs and intensive care that requires a nursing home. “This perception is false,” said Dr. Paula Aston, neurologist who specializes in MS care with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Medication and multiple treatment modalities have come a long way. A vast majority of people with MS lead active lives and prevent disability.”
Patients should focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By avoiding smoking and eating whole foods and a more plant-based diet inflammation can be reduced. Research about MS is ongoing, including studies at Marshfield Clinic Health System. Recent studies include determining differences in gut flora between people with MS compared to someone without the condition. Other studies are researching how diet and exercise impacts MS progression and disease course.
Specialized MS support available for financial concerns
MS-focused care teams are key to supporting patients in all aspects of a patient’s journey. For example, one concern many patients have is, how will they afford the medications they need? Marshfield Clinic Health System has a MS-certified nurse who can help connect patients with financial resources. Depending on the medication, there may be grants through the manufacturer or from state and national foundations who provide assistance.
Sometimes patients with MS have additional needs for things like braces, ramps or air conditioning that make a difference in quality of life. Medical insurance typically won’t cover these needs.
“There are funds available through Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation for copay assistance as well as these tangible needs. These extra resources can help alleviate some worries for patients and their families,” Dr. Aston said.
Care coordination for complex needs
Specialized MS support includes specialists from neurology, urology, physical therapy, physical medicine and others. “MS is a broad disease that impacts so many systems. We make it easier for the patient to navigate and manage their health by working together within these different specialties,” Dr. Aston said.
The specialists coordinate care by staying informed about the patient’s health and concerns neurologically, physically and psychologically. “It’s extremely rare to find all of these services with one organization, unless you’re going to travel to a larger city for your care,” Aston said.
It’s also rare to have a MS-specialized nurse in a rural-based health system. To qualify and receive this certification, the nurse works with approximately 3,000 patients annually. MS-specialized nurses also need special training to stay current with the condition, treatments and standard of care, plus pass a certification test every two years.
This network of care provides support and resources for patients and their families to empower themselves in their care. If you have questions about your MS care, reach out to a neurology provider.