6 Ways Technology Can Make It Easier to Live with MS
The pandemic showed the world how technology can help us stay in touch, gather information, and meet with doctors—but many people living with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) had already been using technology to make their lives a little easier. Here, people with MS share how technology has helped them manage—and how it may be able to help you, too.
Keep Up with Medical Care from Home
It should come as no surprise that telehealth visits soared since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (one survey found a twentyfold increase). This trend is particularly welcome for people who have mobility issues that impede their ability to get to the doctor’s office, or who are concerned about exposure to germs in the waiting room.
Ashley Ratcliff, 37, from Long Beach, California, who is living with multiple sclerosis, says she appreciates being able to check in with her doctors without feeling like she’s putting her health or safety at risk.
“Since the pandemic started, I have been attending my appointments with my neurologists virtually through the Doxy.me telehealth platform, as well as the SimplePractice telehealth platform that my therapist uses,” Ashley says. “It has been helpful and seamless to get care virtually when it’s crucial for me to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19, given my already compromised immune system.”
Record and Revisit Doctor Visits
It can be difficult to remember all the advice and information your doctor shares with you, especially if you’re dealing with brain fog or fatigue. But there are apps that can record what your doctor says—whether virtually or in person—and store it for you so that you (and other family members) can review it at your convenience.
“I use an app called Abridge to record my doctor visits,” says Moyna John-Caraballo, 30, from New York City, who lives with MS. “That way I can listen to it later and share it with my husband and mother.” She especially likes how the app can provide definitions for medical terms and medications.
Medcorder is another app designed for recording and transcribing conversations with your doctors. And in a pinch, the voice recorder that comes on your smartphone can be a great help. Regardless of what you use, be sure you have the other person’s permission before recording them.
Use Videoconferencing to Work from Home
The recent trend toward working from home and using apps such as Zoom and Google Meet to replace in-office meetings is another beneficial change for those with an unpredictable illness such as MS. When flare-ups can make days in the office more challenging, if not impossible, some people may not have to use their sick days.
“It is so great for people with chronic illness to have the option to work from home and create their own schedules,” says Nicole O’Neil, 28, from New York City, who was diagnosed with MS in 2014.
Get Organized Online
There is a lot of info to keep track of when you’re managing a chronic illness, and even simple apps like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or Evernote can help you organize it all.
“I keep a digital record of everything!” Nicole says. “I created templates on Excel: one for medications and supplements, one for doctor’s appointments, one for triggers.”
This helps Nicole not only keep on schedule but also identify what’s working and what isn’t. “It’s a chronicle of my journey, what is going on every day, and I can use it to see how to manage what I eat and drink and how I exercise so I don’t trigger flare-ups.”
Storing this information online or in the cloud gives you the advantage of being able to access your files on multiple devices, including when you’re at your doctor’s office and need to relay accurate information.
Outsource Easy Yet Taxing Tasks
Many people with chronic conditions have found smart home technology, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, to be helpful in doing the little things around the house that require more effort when you have fatigue or mobility issues.
“I use SmartThings lightbulbs to automate the lights in my apartment,” Ashley says. “It’s been really useful in helping me turn lights on and off with just the press of a button versus having to walk across the apartment.”
When Nicole is experiencing brain fog but wants to add something to her spreadsheets about her symptoms and triggers, she simply tells Google Home to do it for her.
Find and Connect with Your People
By joining online communities, such as ours or MS Facebook groups, you can learn helpful tips from people who are living with the same disease and gain the comfort of knowing you’re not alone.
You can even find communities for your specific moment in life: “As a woman with MS who is the mother of two young children, I found I needed to talk to other women who are like me, so I created the Facebook group Multiple Sclerosis Mamas,” says Clarissa Hidalgo, 30, from Merced, California. “It now has more than 1,000 members who have babies, are soon-to-be mamas, or want to be mamas. We provide support for each other.”
As technology continues to advance, search for solutions that work for you. Take advantage of all the efficient and easy new ways to manage symptoms, organize treatments, and take care of tasks at home so you can focus more on doing the things you enjoy while optimizing your health.
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