Different coloured pills and an NHS prescription bag

8 tips for living with several long-term conditions

Many of us will need to manage more than one health condition during our lives. We share some tips on how to cope if you're living with MS and other conditions.

1. Ask for help

If you’re struggling, tell your GP or MS nurse. And don’t forget our MS Helpline. They’re trained in offering emotional support. Call 0808 800 8000 on Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm (closed weekends and bank holidays). Or make contact through our Facebook page or by emailing helpline@mssociety.org.uk.

And at our online forum you can talk to people who understand what you’re going through.

If you’re feeling depressed, learn what can help.

"Allow yourself to talk about how you are feeling – health conditions are hard and it’s understandable to feel down or overwhelmed" - Liz, living with MS, type 1 diabetes and mental health conditions

2. Cut down on hospital visits and travel

If possible - and if you’re treated at the same hospital – ask to have your different appointments scheduled for the same day.

3. If you live in England, make prescriptions cheaper and easier to get

(Prescriptions are free in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.)

Save hundreds of pounds with a Prescription Pre-payment Certificate. It gets you prescriptions for a set price for periods of three or 12 months. Buy one at https://apps.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/ppc-online/patient.do

For other ways to save, including getting free prescriptions, search ‘prescription costs’ at nhs.uk.

Repeat prescriptions can be delivered to your door for free through the Pharmacy2U service at pharmacy2u.co.uk 

4. Get a review of your meds

Ask the pharmacist where you get your prescriptions for a free and confidential Medicines Use Review. They’ll answer your questions about what you’re taking, and make sure you’re taking them in the best way. They can check if taking these drugs together might cause side effects, or make one of your conditions worse. In Scotland ask for a Medicines Care Review. If your pharmacist doesn’t offer this, ask at a different chemist.

In England there’s a free service called the New Medicine Service. You’ll get help and advice from your pharmacist if you start a drug for:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • or to make your blood thinner

Ask about it when you take your new prescription to your pharmacist. Learn more on the NHS website  

"Don’t Google things. Get information from websites like the MS Society, Cancer Research or Macmillan" - Heather, living with MS and recovered from cancer

5. Have a system for all your meds

Get a pill sorter or ‘dosette’ box, plastic boxes with different compartments for each day and time of day. At the start of each week you or your carer fill it up with 7 days of meds to help you keep track of your doses. Find them in chemists or in the ‘personal care’ section at www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk

If you have a disability (such as MS), it’s possible under the Equality Act to have a pharmacist supply prescriptions in dosette boxes.

Or write on a chart the days and times when you should take your medications. Mark off each time you take them, so that you don’t forget a dose.

Some people set alarms on their mobile phone to remind them. Having set times to take your meds (like at breakfast or bedtime) makes you less likely to forget. Leaving medicines out in places around your home can also remind you.

6. Get the social care you’re entitled to

This is help that you, or your carer, can get from your council (or, in Northern Ireland, your trust).

Learn all about it on our social care pages, where you can read our booklets tailored to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales which guide you through the system and explain what you might be able to get to meet your needs.

"Prioritise your different health conditions - don’t take everything on at once." - Ronnie, living with MS, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

7. If you’re going for a screening or treatment...

Contact the unit before the appointment to discuss what help or information you might need. You could ask them what they’ll expect you to do, if they can make any special arrangements to suit your needs (for example, giving you more time), or if there is transport to the appointment.

8. If you have an unplanned admission to hospital, let your MS nurse or team know.

Even if it’s for something not related to MS. Take details of your MS nurse and any treatments you are on with you to hospital. If you’re unable to contact your MS nurse yourself, ask a family member of the nurse in charge of your ward to do it on your behalf. They want to know as they can help you avoid delays in treatment and discharge from hospital.

There are different ways you can store medical information about yourself in case of an emergency. You could use ‘Message in a bottle’, which stores personal and medication details in your fridge. It also comes with stickers you can display to let emergency personnel know where to find it. The scheme is run across the UK by Lions Clubs. You can find out more and get one sent to you by emailing Lions Clubs at mdhq@lionsclubs.co.uk

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