• Volunteering, Eh?

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    This National Volunteer Week, we are thanking the many caring and compassionate volunteers who have dedicated their time, talent and resources in the fight to end MS. National Volunteer Week is a time to recognize and celebrate the power of volunteerism in our community and thank the thousands of MS Society volunteers who selflessly donate their time and energy throughout the year. (more…)

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  • Growing strong communities from the roots up

    Volunteers are at the root of building strong communities. This year, our theme for National Volunteer Week reminds us to celebrate the profound and lasting impact that MS Society Volunteers have on our communities.  Our 13,500 volunteers are an exciting, dynamic and diverse group of people who give selflessly of their time and talents in the fight to end MS.

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  • Connections, effecting change: Celebrating our volunteers

    Volunteering is the ultimate expression of human connection – people acting selflessly on behalf of their communities driven by a desire to contribute to the greater good and help others.

    The mission of the MS Society of Canada is to be a leader in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis and enabling people affected by MS to enhance their quality of life. The commitment of time and talent by volunteers allows us to strengthen that mission and make more impactful connections with Canadians affected by MS.

    We would like to dedicate this week to the outstanding contributions of all our dedicated volunteers. Let’s kick things off by announcing the winners of our National Awards of Achievement.

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  • Talking about mental health

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    by Sylvia Leonard

    Note: While the strategies we mention in this blog post are helpful tips for managing mental health, they are not treatments for depression or other mental health issues that can accompany MS. If your symptoms feel unmanageable, speak with your general practitioner or other healthcare professional about it as soon as possible.

    What is mental health?

    According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “mental health is key to our well-being.” We can’t truly be healthy without it. It involves how we feel, think, act, and interact with the world around us. Good mental health isn’t about avoiding problems or trying to achieve a ‘perfect’ life. It’s about living well and feeling capable despite challenges.”

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  • Our top 5 tips for coping with cognitive changes

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    “When I was first diagnosed with MS, I developed little tricks to help me cope with cognitive symptoms. I’ll set alarms on my cellphone or text myself to remember things. The act of putting pen to paper has always helped me commit things to memory, so I keep a day planner. Expressing what’s on my mind is sometimes hard for me. Thoughts will be clear in my head, but they just won’t come out the same way when I try to articulate them.”

    – Lizelle Mendoza, diagnosed in 2007

    For some people, multiple sclerosis is an invisible illness. Cognitive impairments such as short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating and altered moods can have a large impact on quality of life for people living with the disease and their loved ones. Research on treatments for cognitive impairment is ongoing, but cognitive rehabilitation with an occupational therapist is a great way to develop compensatory strategies for people who live with these symptoms. While coping strategies may not reverse the symptoms themselves, they can provide efficient alternative ways to perform tasks that have become difficult. Here are a few tricks for managing the cognitive changes due to MS.
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  • Your MS winter safety toolkit

    By Sylvia Leonard

    The cold season can make daily life especially challenging for people living with a disability. Weather-related limitations can present barriers to participation in everyday activities, and people living with MS may feel removed from their community during the winter months—which can exacerbate the physical and psychological symptoms of MS.

    Ice, snow and uneven surfaces can mean an increased risk of falling, heightened fatigue and difficulty getting around, among other challenges. While our communities have a responsibility to ensure people living with disabilities can remain mobile during our winters, there are also things you can do to stay safe throughout the winter.

    Scroll through the images below to view all 6 of our Winter safety tips.

    Winter storms also disproportionately affect people living with disabilities. Whether you’re working through snow in a motorized wheelchair or stuck inside your home as a result of the weather, it’s important to have a plan in place for winter emergencies. Things like power outages, floods, blizzards or ice storms each bring their own set of challenges—so we’ve also put together a basic to-do list to make sure you’re prepared for any number of winter emergency situations.

    Done! Time to partyand celebrate!

    Remember: support groups are good places for community building and information sharing. Join a support group to gain more strategies for getting around in winter from people living with MS.

    For more information on local support groups or adapted activities offered in your area, call your local MS Society chapter at 1-800-268-7582 (programs may vary according to location).

    Did we miss something that works for you? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Working in partnership to offer caregiver webinars

    Over the years I have worked for a number of different health charities. All do great work to provide supports and services and all work exceptionally hard to fundraise for these services and for the necessary research for treatments and cures. Over time, it became clear to me that while each health charity is unique in the cause it supports, there are some commonalities particularly in the needs of caregivers – and there may be opportunities to work together to more efficiently deliver services to a greater number of people. To that end, the MS Society of Canada approached two other health charities supporting people with neurological conditions: the Alzheimer Society and Parkinson Society Canada. Recognizing that there are many topics which appeal to all caregivers in the broader disease community, our three organizations have decided to partner to offer caregiver webinars. I see this collaboration as an opportunity for practice, idea and resource sharing as well as a way to potentially avoid the duplication of precious resources.

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    Following a survey administered by all three organizations through posting on the respective websites we were able to capture key caregiver needs and topics of interest. We convened two think tanks (one in English and one in French) made up of caregivers representing each organization to drill down further on what we heard through the surveys. I had the pleasure of participating in the English think tank; we asked for their input to distill down the survey content into their suggestions for topics and themes of caregiver webinars. Ensuring that the caregiver voice is represented in this initiative is critical to all three organizations.

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    The rich information provided by over 500 caregivers across Canada in the survey will not only help us define webinar topics but will also prove useful and insightful in supporting further initiatives for all three health charities. The experience so far of working in partnership has been truly successful – I can see doors opening up for additional collaborations and this partnership can be used as a model for future cooperation among diverse health charities. While each organization has strength in working independently, there is even greater strength in what we can accomplish for those we serve by working collaboratively when opportunities arise.

    Look out for our national caregiver webinars to be offered later in 2015 and 2016!

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  • Adapting your sartorial choices: Dressing for MS

     

     “Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” –Virginia Woolf

    Multiple sclerosis can affect many areas of your life, and the disease may change how you do various activities. Choosing what to wear probably isn’t at the forefront of most people’s minds when receiving a diagnosis of MS, but clothing quickly becomes relevant to daily living when people experience certain MS symptoms.

    Adaptive clothing can serve as temporary fixes during exacerbations for people who live with relapsing-remitting MS. For people who have a progressive form of MS, clothes adapted for special equipment can help make life a little easier. Here are some MS-friendly clothing suggestions:

    1. Footwear

    If MS affects your balance and coordination, select shoes with significant “tread” on the sole rather than a smooth surface. If you experience numbness on the bottom of your feet, however, you may opt for a thinner sole to better “feel” the ground beneath you.

    1. Cooling wear

    For people with heat sensitivity, cooling clothing may provide some relief. Cooling clothing contains gel crystals that retain cold temperatures when they are wet; they come in various styles, from bandanas to vests. Scroll down for suggested retailers.

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    1. Side zip pants

    Adding an invisible zipper to the seamline along the sides of pant legs can allow for easier dressing and undressing. Side-zip pants are ideal for people using wheelchairs and scooters, as they eliminate the need to pull pants legs up; instead the pants may be placed around the legs, with a thin zipper closing the pants from calf to waist.

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    1. Shirts

    Shirts that can be pulled over or zipped may be better options than shirts with buttons, snaps or ties for people who experience symptoms that affect the use of their fingers, hands or arms.

    “MS progression resulted in permanent wheelchair use, and increasing upper-body impairment placed restrictions on my outside activities. This was compounded by a lack of available clothing for style, comfort, fit and freedom of movement. Modern adaptive apparel solved those problems for me; providing real clothing options for people with physical disabilities involves deeper issues of restoring dignity, self-confidence and personal autonomy.”

    — JULIE, DIAGNOSED IN 1979

     

    Here are some Canadian online shopping resources to get you started:

    Adaptive clothing

    http://www.izadaptive.com Izzy Camilleri’s IZ Adaptive line in Toronto
    http://www.ezeplus.com (French) for Mode Ézé Plus in Montreal

    http://www.ashleysadaptiveapparel.ca/ (Winnipeg, MB)

    http://www.debralynncreations.ca/ (Surrey, BC)

    Cooling clothing

    http://www.msolutions.org
    http://steelevest.com
    http://heatreliefdepot.com
    https://www.axizz.com

    How do you use clothing to make your life easier with MS? Use the comments section to let us know what you think.

     

    All photos sourced from IZ Adaptive.

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  • One phone call – a life changed forever.

    Listen to the clip above to hear Allie’s reaction to the news of her scholarship.

    I’m excited to announce that Allie Sherwin, whose mother Susan lives with primary-progressive MS, has been awarded the first-ever Follow the Leader scholarship. Unlike other scholarships, which cover only some of the costs of an education, this $100,000 scholarship will pay for Allie’s entire undergraduate degree at Western University in London, ON!

    Allie Sherwin.

    Allie Sherwin.

     

    I had the pleasure of meeting Allie and her parents a few weeks ago. After I spoke with them, I felt so grateful to our amazing donors who allow us to offer programs that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. To make this scholarship possible, we’ve been working with KRG Children’s Charitable Foundation, who wanted to fund a scholarship for young people affected by MS. With the goal to fund an ambitious student’s entire undergraduate degree, KRG is specifically funding a scholarship in science that will hopefully lead to a career in MS research.

    Susan has spurred Allie’s drive to better understand MS and work towards a career in science and ending the disease. As you can imagine, Allie was shocked when she heard the good news.

    Between the amazing research grants and studentships offered through our research department and scholarships like Follow the Leader, I know that we are playing a vital role in supporting the young MS researchers and leaders of the future. I can’t wait to see what Allie accomplishes over the next four years at Western. We will be by her side, following and sharing her progress.

    But I also know there are many students out there affected by MS who struggle to afford their education. We continue to look for donors who will help us offer more bursary money to a greater number of young people across Canada.

    Over the years I have seen huge smiles at MS Summer Camp, watched and listened to interested participants at education sessions, and observed the relief on the faces of the beneficiaries of some of our volunteer legal assistance programs. But it’s not very often that we get to change the life of an individual–and by extension a family–with just one quick phone call!

    Continue to read our blog for more updates on Allie in the future.

  • Smartphone apps for symptom management

    I often hear my son say, “There’s an app for that!” He reminds me that you can find an app for almost everything ─ locating restaurants, banking, grocery stores, games, fitness programs ─ and that’s only scratching the surface! We’ve found several MS-specific and general health apps that may be helpful as you go about your day-to-day life with MS and its symptoms. All the apps featured are free of charge and can be found in your smartphone or tablet’s app store.

    Apps

    The Allan family in BC.

    When I began my work with the MS Society, we discussed apps for people living with multiple sclerosis in less concrete terms than we do today. Less than four short years later, there are now many apps to help manage daily life with MS. Some apps inform people living with MS about how to manage symptoms while others allow you to track sleep, bladder activity and mobility.

    What I think is particularly innovative is that these tracking apps can be shared with your healthcare team to assess whether further symptom management is required. Tracking apps are a neat way to harness technology to do something that you may already have been doing, but in a more efficient manner.

    Technology is amazing, and things change so quickly. So many developers are creating new apps every day, so I do recommend researching an app and reading any available reviews to ensure the app will provide the solution you’re looking for.

    Do you use any apps to manage MS? Please let us know in the comments below.

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