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MS Caregivers Experience High Strain at Early Disease Stages, Study Shows

Cognitive and neuropsychiatric problems in the early stages of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis cause high strain for caregivers, researchers say.

Cognitive and neuropsychiatric problems caused by relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) — such as memory and processing issues, depression, and irritability — are the main source of strain among life partners of MS patients with mild disability, a study finds.

The study, “Caregiver strain among life partners of persons with mild disability due to relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

Caregivers play an important role in the lives and treatment of those living with MS. They not only provide daily assistance with MS patients’ personal care and mobility, but also help them do leisure activities and cope with the disease.

However, providing this positive support can be a heavy burden, causing extreme fatigue and depression for the caregiver. That ultimately can lead to reductions in the quality of care given the MS patient.

Most studies addressing caregivers’ health problems have focused on patients at more advanced stages of the disease with more severe disability. That means there is little information on the burden experienced by life partners of MS patients during the early disease stages.

To evaluate potential factors for caregiver strain caused by RRMS, researchers in the Netherlands asked both patients with mild disability and their life partners to complete specific questionnaires. The person with MS was employed or had worked at a paid job in the previous three years.

The analysis was conducted as part of the MS@Work study, a three-year prospective observational study being conducted in the country with the support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

From 222 patients who participated in the study, the team included data from 173 patients with RRMS (79% female; mean age of 42.8 years) and their life partners.

Read on: MS Caregivers Experience High Strain at Early Disease Stages, Study Shows

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