Although multiple sclerosis (MS) does not typically reduce life expectancy, there has been relatively little systematic investigation of the experiences and healthrelated concerns of people aging with this disease. A current search of the database CINAHL produced no articles when the search terms “multiple sclerosis,” “nursing” and “aging” were used. To initiate more dialogue about the role of nurses in addressing the issues and concerns of people aging with MS, a cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted using both qualitative interviews and the administration of standardized instruments to elicit information about the health concerns and service needs of 27 people with MS 55 years of age and older. Qualitatively, participants perceived that they had less freedom and required more assistance than same age peers who do not have MS. Scores from standardized instruments support these perceptions. Participants expressed unmet needs in the areas of housework, physical therapy, MS support groups, religious service attendance, information and referral, check-in services, assistive technology use, social activities, personal care, and care coordination. To address these perceptions and needs, neuroscience nurses need to be aware of and sensitive to the challenges of aging with MS. In addition, nurses must be prepared to discuss and provide information, resources, and referrals on a wide range of health, social, and wellness-related services.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Marcia Finlayson, PhD OT(C) OTR/L, by phone at 312/996-4603 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Toni Van Denend, MS OTR/L, is a research project coordinator in the department of occupational therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Elizabeth Hudson, MSN RN NP, is a nurse practitioner at Rush Presbyterian, St. Luke's Multiple Sclerosis Center, Chicago.
© 2004 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses