from a walker or wheelchair. “That
has been the greatest gift of MS—to
learn to ask for help and to take it as
it’s given,” Richey said.
Another advantage to getting older is
having fewer life demands. It’s hard
to take naps and breaks with a full-time job and kids running around the
house. “As people get older, they may
be able to retire, the kids may be out
of the house, and it may be that life
allows them to structure their everyday
activities so they can incorporate the
limitations imposed by MS,” Dr.
Age also brings with it a kind of equality: No longer
do people with MS have to envy their healthy
friends. “My theory is that as people with MS get
older, their peers are also getting older, so they’re
no longer so different from anyone else,” explained
Terry DiLorenzo, PhD, an associate professor of
psychology at Yeshiva University in New York.
Dana Nelson, a roofing and
insulation company owner in
Mechanicsville, Va., feels lucky to
have a large network of friends and
family members who are willing
to help out when he needs them. “Support is
tremendously important,” he said.
There’s a sense of community, rather than isolation,
when friends and family members also complain
about their ailments. “All my friends have cooler
diseases than I have,” Richey said. “They’ve all
Nelson, 63, now uses a wheelchair and relies on
a caregiver to get him dressed and ready in the
morning and to take him to and from work. Yet,
it’s his wife who is responsible for most of the work
that is usually shared in a household. She does all
the cooking and makes sure their house is clean
and maintained. “The burden really falls on her,”
With experience also comes a sort of contentment.
People who were diagnosed in their 20s have had
two decades or more to become accustomed to the
idea of living with MS. “They’ve had some time to
adapt to having the disease,” Dr. DiLorenzo said.
Adaptation brings a greater willingness to accept
help—whether it comes from a family member or
Spouses and other family members often shoulder
increased responsibilities and sometimes provide
personal care. But as they get older, some develop
health issues themselves, and it can become harder
for them to keep up. Eventually, they may have
to back down from some of their responsibilities.
When that happens, the person with MS is left
scrambling to find a new support person if he or she
hasn’t planned ahead.