treating MS. “MS is a lifetime disease,” Dr. Kraft
said. “You may have a great treatment plan, and
you may have the disease really well controlled,
but it still can get out of control at any point.” It’s
important to get tested for any symptoms with
unclear causes, including muscle and joint issues
and memory problems. An MRI is a good way to
check for nerve damage, and cognitive tests can help
distinguish MS-related memory loss from dementia.
Bladder issues, depression and other common
Which symptoms of aging
and MS can overlap?
Aging can resemble many common MS
symptoms, including fatigue, weakness,
cognitive problems, vision problems and
joint discomfort. See a neurologist and other
specialists to evaluate any new or changing
What tests should people with MS have
as they get older?
MRI exams and other neurologic tests can
help distinguish age-related diseases from
MS progression. Everyone over 50 should
be screened regularly for diseases more
common with age, including cancer and
Is depression more common in older
people with MS?
Depression is more common with age
in general. Even though seniors with
MS actually have an easier time coping
emotionally than younger people living with
the disease, they can still become depressed.
People who suspect they may be depressed
should see their doctor or a mental health
professional for an evaluation.
MS symptoms need to be evaluated and treated
appropriately as well, Dr. Kraft advised.
Doctors also should take into account how they are
treating MS and other diseases in their older patients.
Older adults can have more trouble taking the same
medicines they tolerated well when they were younger
because their bodies metabolize medications more
slowly. They may need to work with their medical
provider to adjust doses or switch medications.
What should older adults with MS do to
stay as healthy as possible?
It’s important to keep the body active and
the mind sharp. Regular exercise can help
improve mobility and flexibility as well as
mood. Activities such as socializing with
friends, doing crossword puzzles and
reading can keep the mind limber.
What financial decisions do people with
MS need to make as they get older?
Having the resources to pay for caregivers,
housing and other support services is
essential. Personal home care can be very
expensive, and health insurance usually
won’t cover the cost. People with MS can
work with a financial planning professional
and aging/disability service agencies to
ensure that they will have enough funds to
cover all their future care needs.
How can people learn about the services
and supports available to them?
The U.S. Administration on Aging created
the Aging and Disability Resource Center at
adrc-tae.org. This one-stop website helps
older adults with disabilities learn about the
service programs available to them.