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Supporting a colleague with MS

The most important thing to remember about MS is that it's different for everyone. There's no single 'right' way to support someone with MS at work.

MS in the workplace throws up different challenges for everyone. We've put together some tips on supporting colleagues with MS.

1. Think before talking about MS

MS is sometimes known as the snowflake disease. Because like snowflakes, every single person's MS is unique. No two people have exactly the same symptoms.

This means that, even if you know someone with MS, your colleague will not necessarily have a similar experience to them. So talking about your friend or relative's MS to show empathy with your colleague might not be helpful.

Your colleague may not want to discuss their MS at all with you. And that's ok too. Take your lead from them.

Find out more about talking about MS

2. Understand invisible symptoms

MS has many invisible symptoms. So, like Rebbecca (who's in the video on this page) although someone might look ok, that might not be how they feel.

Fatigue

The most common invisible symptom is fatigue. Fatigue is not like being tired. It's an overwhelming weariness that often means the person cannot function. Rebbecca describes her fatigue as "her brain shutting down".

Cognitive fog

Another invisible symptom of MS can be cognitive problems, sometimes called cog fog. They can mean your colleague might have problems remembering things or following a conversation with more than one person talking. Rebbecca describes her cog fog as having a cloud in her brain she has to push aside.

But not everyone with MS gets cog fog, and it can come and go. So it's important we don't assume we know what's going on and why. Everyone forgets sometimes.

Other invisible symptoms

Other people might have spasms and stiffness, be in pain, or need to go to the loo a lot.

As with everything about MS, it's best to let your colleague take the lead in sharing what they are comfortable talking about.

Find out more about invisible symptoms

3. Don't ask if someone's MS is cured

There is no cure for MS, yet. Many people with relapsing MS have a treatment that aims to prevent MS relapses.

But they don't work for everyone, and for people with some types of progressive MS there are only treatments to manage symptoms.

That means, for now, your colleague's MS isn't going anywhere. So while people might have better and worse days, their MS won't 'get better'.

Instead of asking your colleague if their MS is better, you could simply ask how they are today (like you might with anyone else!).

Find out more about talking about MS

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