My Mate Has MS
What to do if your friend has MS

People often worry about friends with MS. Whether you’ve known them for some time and they’ve just been diagnosed, or whether you’ve only just met and they’ve had MS for years - it can be difficult to know whether you should treat them in a special way or if there are certain accommodations you should make.

The first thing you need to know is that MS is a very variable condition. There are four different kinds of MS and MS symptoms may come and go on a minute by minute, hour by hour or day by day basis. Your friend may not know which type of MS they have, and will not be able to predict which symptoms they may develop or when they may occur.

This unpredictability makes it difficult for your friend to know how they are going feel at any one time. Even so, with a little planning and sensitivity you should be able to meet up and still have loads of fun. Use some of the tips below to ensure you have a good time when you get together:

MS can make your friend forgetful. Calling up in advance or sending a text reminder or two can make sure you are not left waiting.

Don’t mollycoddle your friend or jump in to do something you can see they are struggling with. It may take them longer to make that cup of tea but they can probably manage it.

Be sensitive, quietly asking at the right moment whether you can help (but not making a big deal of it) may allow you to take on some task that is proving to be a bit too much.

• Many people with MS are sunlight and heat sensitive. Going for a walk may be better earlier in the morning or early evening rather than immediately after lunch. Asking when would be the best time to do anything is always a good idea.

Fatigue is often a difficulty with MS. When out shopping, more frequent coffee and toilet breaks and sitting for a longer time may be helpful.

It may be easier to do something locally rather than trek in to town. Or take a taxi or bus to prevent fatigue building up, even though it may be easy to walk to the venue.

Asking for an aisle seat in the cinema or at a concert is a good idea. People with MS often need to use the toilet more quickly and more often, and may be embarrassed to make a fuss.

If your friend develops a tired expression and becomes bit grumpy or finds it difficult to hold a conversation, a longish sit down or nap may be all they need to regain their sense of humour.

• Don’t be surprised if sometimes your friend is able to rock the night away with the best of them and the next is bowing out entirely. That is the variable nature of MS.

Above all, don’t let your lack of knowledge of MS (you needn’t become an expert) or embarrassment get in the way of a good friendship. A little patience goes a long way. And your friend will certainly appreciate your company.

If you or your friend has been newly diagnosed you can find out more here.

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