World MS Day (30 May): Looking After Care Home Residents With MS

World MS Day takes place this year on Thursday 30 May to shine a light on issues faced by people living with multiple sclerosis and the loved ones who support them. According to the MS Society, more than 150,000 people have MS, or multiple sclerosis in the UK ( and around 7,100 receive a new diagnosis each year.

MS is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the body’s immune system erroneously attacks the myelin sheath in the brain and spinal cord, causing it to become inflamed. The myelin sheath protects the nerves and helps transmit electrical signals. MS symptoms can come and go in periods known as relapses, (when symptoms are more problematic) and respite (when they lessen or even disappear for a time).

MS can develop at any age, with many people receiving diagnoses in their 20s, 30s or 40s. In more severe cases, people can require significant medical support, including residential care or respite care. In cases like this, it is vital that care home manager and staff do everything they can to support residents and help them manage their symptoms and live as pain-free a life as possible.

Spotting the signs

Care home residents that have MS can present a number of symptoms that staff should be able to identify easily. These include fatigue or abnormal levels of tiredness, numbness and tingling and loss of balance or dizzy spells. In addition, people with MS can feel tremors or pain, as well as stiffness or spasms in their joints when the condition is affecting them during a relapse. Other signs can include bladder or bowel issues, difficulties with vision and, in some cases, memory, thinking and concentration problems.

Everyday life

There are numerous ways in which care home staff can support younger care home residents who live with MS to work, go out and enjoy hobbies. This can be all the time, or when they are experiencing respite periods. In these cases, it is best to ask each resident how they would prefer to be supported, and what they need. Each person is likely to be different and require different types and levels of help. Support can range from providing mobility aids and therapies to help keep the body as healthy as possible to emotional support, nutrition advice and practical information.

Helping with MS related medication

MS can be treated with steroid tablets or injections to help lessen symptoms and help speed up recovery from a relapse. This treatment will not prevent deterioration, nor offer a full cure, but it can significantly ease discomfort and pain. This treatment should be provided under a medical expert’s supervision and can be added to the regular medication rounds, documented on an eMAR system to ensure safe, tracked dispensation.

Relieving fatigue, stiffness and pain

Residents experiencing abnormal fatigue should be provided with facilities and opportunities to rest in a comfortable, quiet environment. They can also be supported with gentle exercise and helped to avoid medication that could worsen their feelings of fatigue. Any reasons for not being able to sleep, such as anxiety, depression or anaemia should also be investigated and treatments explored. Physical symptoms such as stiffness, tremors or pain can be addressed in care homes by visiting physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Providing physiotherapy, preventing falls

These therapists can show people with MS how to carry out suitable exercises. They can also advise on equipment and routines to strengthen the body, prevent injury and provide pain relief. Mobility problems can also be supported in a care home setting with plenty of grab rails and walking aids made available. Clutter and cables should be tidied away and darker areas provided with extra lighting so residents can see where they are walking and spot potential trip hazards.

Using technology to improve lives

Care home staff who look after residents with MS and other autoimmune conditions can benefit hugely from using digital care management software like Care Vision,. As well as a comprehensive eMAR tool for recording medication, the system has a suite of monitoring tools to check on weight management, emotional behaviour, falls prevention management and more. The visitor signing in book helps staff know when external therapists are expected and patient notes can be transferred to MS consultants and other medical experts or hospital admissions teams. The system also has a nurse call alarm function to call for emergency support as required.

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