To diagnose progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), doctors rely a great deal on the patient’s own account of gradually increasing neurological dysfunction over months and years. Impairment typically takes the form of gradual worsening of many different symptoms. Addressing these symptoms requires a multidisciplinary approach and has the potential to significantly improve quality of life. MS treatments have shown promising effectiveness in slowing progression, but they’re generally not as effective in older patients with longstanding disease. Newer therapies are being tested in clinical trials for their potential to slow down progression or improve symptoms.
Palliative care can be a valuable complementary asset for patients severely affected by MS, and the team-based approach which often includes a spiritual care counselor and social worker, integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care with the physical and medical features. Palliative care providers are particularly skilled in pain management and recognize the concept of “total pain” – the suffering that encompasses all of a person’s physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and practical struggles.
- Robert Gross, MD, Neurologist, Rocky Mountain MS Center
- Christina L. Vaughan, MD, MHS, Neuro-Palliative Care Specialist, CU Department of Neurology
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