Empowering change: How healthcare professionals support brain health in MS care

  • Healthcare professionals play crucial roles in advocating for brain-healthy lifestyles among people living with MS. 
  • Challenges such as time constraints and readiness of people with MS to engage impact the effectiveness of these interventions. 
  • Collaboration and communication between individuals and MS healthcare teams are essential for successful lifestyle changes. 

Overview

A brain-healthy lifestyle involving regular exercise, a balanced diet, mental stimulation, adequate sleep, and stress management, is essential for everyday care of MS. It has been proven to greatly enhance the quality of life for those living with MS.  

A recent study, published in Health Expectations, investigated how healthcare professionals help people living with MS adopt healthier lifestyles. It identified the roles healthcare professionals play and explored the challenges they face in encouraging lifestyle changes that benefit brain health. 

What did the researchers do? 

MS Australia supported researcher, Olivia Wills and her team from The University of Wollongong, interviewed a variety of healthcare professionals in Australia, including doctors, nurses, and therapists who specialise in MS care. These professionals were chosen for their experience and were interviewed online. The discussions aimed to understand how they support and guide people living with MS in adopting lifestyle habits that are good for brain health. The analysis of these interviews was thorough, looking for common themes and insights into the professionals’ approaches and challenges. 

What did the researchers find? 

The study identified three main roles that healthcare professionals see themselves playing in the care of people with MS: empowering them, working collaboratively with them, and communicating effectively. However, a number of challenges relating to how these roles are performed were also uncovered, such as limited time, the need for more specialised training, and varying levels of readiness and motivation among people with MS to make changes. These factors can complicate the ability of professionals to effectively assist those living with the condition. 

Ms Wills commented, “The path to maximising lifelong brain health is not without its challenges. Greater awareness must be made in recognising and addressing these challenges during patient interactions to ensure we continue to provide person-centred care that encourages positive behaviour changes. 

What does this mean for people with MS? 

For people living with MS, this study underscores the importance of a supportive healthcare team in managing their MS. While healthcare professionals are committed to assisting individuals adopt brain-healthy lifestyles, the process is complex and influenced by many factors. Understanding these challenges can help people with MS and their families better collaborate with healthcare teams to tackle these hurdles together. This cooperative approach can lead to more effective management of MS through lifestyle changes, ultimately contributing to better brain health and quality of life. 


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