Financial struggles can hinder recovery for MS sufferers
“If I get stressed I die quicker, and I’m not prepared to do that.”
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferer Lisa Alabaksh, a former head teacher living in North London says this is exactly how she feels about living with MS. She was diagnosed with MS in February 2004 at the age of 35, when her symptoms were extreme fatigue and feeling weak.
“I was given seven years by the doctor until I would be in a wheel chair, which made me furious. However, I spent a lot of money on my recovery which I was fortunate to be able to do, as I had was medically retired which made me eligible for a pension on a head teacher’s salary.
“I went to India where I had massages; I had a Pilate’s one-to-one training and ate a lot of organic foods. I was able to spend a lot of time on my recovery through alternative therapy because I had the money to do so and my partner also supported me.”
MS is a disease where inflammation occurs in parts of the brain and/or spinal cord in forms of patches. This can result in damage to the brain and lead to various symptoms according to Bupa Health care.
Financial stability is an important element for people living with MS as the illness can cause severe symptoms which may result in patients being unable to work. But a lack of financial stability can become very stressful for MS sufferers, causing a reduction in their quality of life.
A survey carried out by Biogen Idec in June 2010 to examine the impact of mobility impairment in MS sufferers, surveyed 436 people with mobility issues due to MS from Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The findings reveal 72 per cent of MS patients said their mobility problems had a significant impact on their working lives and 64 per cent reported losing earnings due to MS-related mobility issues.
Stress is a dangerous factor for any healthy human being and can cause a range of problems to a person’s mental and physical well being, such as depression and other emotional anxieties.
Therefore, for a person suffering from MS where stress is a major trigger, the symptoms of the illness may increase.
The main symptoms that MS sufferers experience include limited mobility and weakness in the upper body and legs, muscle spasms and stiffness and cognitive problems such as difficulties with memory and thinking.
Other symptoms include increased fatigue and generally feeling weak in the body.
MS Sufferer Vinny Patel aged 38 from South East London, Is a mother of two and has been battling with MS since 2000 when her first attack took place resulting in cramping in her left arm and leg to the extent that her fingers and toes curled over. This rendered her unable to walk.
Ms Patel was not diagnosed until 2007, when she then developed other symptoms bought on by stress such as fatigue, difficulties with memory and pins and needles throughout the body. She told People with Voices:
“The symptoms stay with you all the time; you can’t do all the things that you used to do. You can’t walk long distance; you need two hands to walk down stairs instead of one. “It seems like minor things but it’s not when you’re used to a healthy active life.”
The MS Society is currently preparing a response to the Government’s current consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to represent the views and interests of people with MS, as they are concerned with the number of changes being made.
Policy and Campaign officer at The MS Society, Hayley Jordon, told People with Voices:
“Living with MS is expensive. Disabled people are less likely to be earning, and households that include a disabled individual are far more likely to live below the poverty line.
“Benefits like DLA support people with extra costs such as accessible transport, specialist equipment or pre-prepared meals, help around the house or extra cost of heating and cleaning bills.”
Ms Patel told People with Voices that if she received greater financial support, she would not have to work, which has become increasingly difficult.
The government provides a range of benefits, allowance and grants for people living with MS. But for people used to a higher income, these are not quite adequate to provide the best quality of life.
Former head teacher Lisa Alabaksh told People with Voices that for her, the money from her retirement was substantial enough to boost her recovery and without it she would have probably been in a wheelchair as her doctor predicted.
“I can’t imagine what my life would be like without having the money to take care of myself. It is essential to heal yourself and be able to live as stress free life as possible. Unfortunately a lot of people living with MS can’t afford to do what I did, and that’s the sad part.”