5 Things you can do to help someone with MS socially or in your community

I quite often get asked "what is it like to have MS?"...To me, this is a great question and one I don't mind answering. I feel by talking about it, it raises awareness and awareness is really key for people to get a better understanding of what we go through.

I know I was certainly guilty of not understanding this illness myself pre-diagnosis. It's only now that I have it that I more fully understand it. And because MS is so varied and different for everyone I think it's even more confusing for the general public.

So this week I want to talk about some of the symptoms we experience, how they affect us, and some really easy things you can start to do socially or in your community that will help someone with MS immensely. These are all things that I noticed helped me a lot in the beginning months of my disability and still do to this day.

To start with I want to give you the general idea of what it's like for someone with MS on a daily basis. Please watch this short 2 minute clip that is absolute genius!


So now you have the general idea, here are 5 things you can start to do today, socially or in your community that will help us out.

  • OBLIGE on FOOTPATHS (if you can)

MS is mostly an invisible illness as you've seen above and it's not something we scream from the hills "Look out!!! I have MS, coooming through!!", although that'd probably help! 

We can suffer anything from balance issues, muscle weakness, dizziness, nausea, numbness, compromised eye sight in the form of blurred or double vision, or in my case nystagmus (flickering vision). All of these things are invisible to the outside world and can make walking a real challenge. But! as someone without MS, know that when your out next time, there are some signs you can spot and ways you can help us.

If you notice someone walking towards you that looks like any of the following - unsteady, not walking confidently, wearing glasses, with a walking stick or walking aid, only looking ahead or down and/or moving cautiously, always holding the hand rail, or steadying themselves. Please oblige and move to the side of the footpath and away from the hand rail (if you don't need it) to let them pass safely. To me this sounds obvious but you'd be surprised at the amount of people that just didn't for me.

I always think to myself that I have two working legs now and i'm more than capable of walking on uneven surfaces (although a little wonky at times) so I move onto the grass and let people pass freely if I can.

Appreciate your body and ability and celebrate it to help others that are less able.

 

  • oblige with hand rails (if you can)

We use hand rails more than you'd know, I still use them. Sometimes I just hold my hand above it while i'm walking just incase. So if your fit and healthy and don't need the hand rail then please always move away from the hand rails and oblige to let those that need it pass safely. 

 

  • offer your seat

If you have 2 healthy working legs and a healthy fit body and your not pregnant then please stand if your able to and offer your seat. It's a small act that will make such a big difference in our day.

If i'm at a social event and standing in one spot for too long, quite often my circulation diminishes and numbness sets in, so taking the pressure off my feet helps a lot. Other times i'm quite happy standing, it just depends.

I use to find busses really challenging because here in Australia they're quite fast and sometimes aggressive drivers and that was pretty intimidating. It exacerbates my dizziness, nystagmus and balance. Again try and be more conscious and spot the signs if you don't already know they have MS - glasses, a walking aid, unsteady walking, clinging to hand rails, maybe looking a little distressed, weak or unwell.

And if you see someone with one of these badges below, know they have an invisible illness, and please don't judge them for taking a seat over someone else.


These badges and cards have now been approved in the UK for people with invisible illness to use on public transport and enable them to have a seat, which is such a great idea.

Current London public transport badge for invisible illness

Current London public transport badge for invisible illness

Current London public transport card for invisible illness

Current London public transport card for invisible illness

There's currently a petition for them to be approved in Australia, currently Victoria (link below). So please sign the petition so we can get them introduced and hopefully other states will follow. 

www.change.org


  • offer support - hold out your hand

If you know someone with MS and your out walking together or at a social occasion and you see them struggling with their balance, just hold out your hand for support or ask them if they need a hand. Just lending a helping hand when we're walking up or down hill, stairs, wearing heels or walking on uneven surfaces is always appreciated if your close-by.

 

  • THE ICEBREAKER

Not sure what to say or where to start with conversation but want to show you care? Some simple questions that i've appreciated (after saying hello that is) are... "How are you?"...or..."how have you been?"...or..."I heard what happened and i've been thinking of you". Obviously use your discretion and say them naturally in conversation and only if you mean them, being sincere and genuine. I've found these are really simple and open ways to show you care and i've never felt offended by these questions. You don't have to address the illness at all or even the words MS. Because of that it's just a really comfortable place to start and/or show you care and it leaves space for a bigger conversation to flow if the person with MS wants it to.

 

  • USE YOUR HUMOUR

Humour has a really positive affect on everyones physiology. I appreciate humour so much and find it really healing. If your a funny person or quick witted then use it to your advantage and just crack us up. In my experience in the beginning days of my diagnosis it instantly distracted me, eased tension, took my mind off my situation and bought me back to the present and it still does. Life can get quite serious during a diagnosis and a relapse so I find appropriate comic relief is always appreciated.

 

  • help to RAISE MONEY & AWARENESS

This isn't little at all, it's actually huge to us. 

If you have an able and willing body then please help to raise money and in the process raise awareness. We need every inch of support because MS drug trials literally cost millions to run. This is also a really exciting time in MS research as we are finding out more and more all the time.

I'm always blown away at the amount of people doing these charity walks that don't have the illness, it's really moving to see people supporting MS. Your support will not go unnoticed I can promise you.

If your wanting to support MS Australia you can go to www.ms.org.au, to their events page, where you can find out about what fundraising events are happening in your area. For those of you that are overseas, check out your national MS website for the same information.

You can also head over to overcomingms.org for more great ways you can get involved with OMS. They do lots of things in the UK to.


In a nutshell...

  1. OBLIGE on FOOTPATHS (if you can)

  2. oblige with hand rails (if you can)

  3. Offer your seat (if you can)

  4. offer support - hold out your hand

  5. THE ICEBREAKER

  6. USE YOUR HUMOUR

  7. help to RAISE MONEY & AWARENESS

I hope that's helped you see there are some really simple and easy things you can do in your community and socially that will make someones life with MS a whole lot easier. Really all of the above is just about being more conscious, thoughtful and aware of others in a different situation with a different ability level to you. 

If anyone with MS has any additional tips or recommendations i'd love to hear them! this is from my experience and I know we are all so different so please share.

And for those without MS, next time your out in public, please offer a helping hand to those that need it. You will most definitely put a smile on someones face.

Much love!

Simonne x