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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Government surrender in benefits battle

A government U-turn, in the face of court judgment, means almost 165,000 people will benefit from higher disability benefits. Conservative politicians had tried to prevent people with psychological distress from receiving higher rates of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). But the judges said ‘no’.

u-turn

Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary.

The UK government had been thought likely to challenge the court ruling, and had said it would cost an extra £3.7bn to reverse the changes it had made.

Now though, like a coward in the face of enemy fire, it has deserted its position and run for cover. Figuratively raising the white flag of surrender, new work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has ruled out fresh legal action. She did so in a written statement to parliament.

U-turn on PIP welcomed

Disability campaigners have welcomed the U-turn. Just as I do.

It all started early last year, when new regulations said that people who could not travel independently on the grounds of psychological distress, as opposed to other conditions, were not entitled to the enhanced mobility rate of Personal Independence Payment.

Ministers dismissed criticism from an independent tribunal before the High Court ruled that they were “blatantly discriminatory”.

In her statement to the House of Commons, Ms McVey said that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “will now take all steps necessary to implement the judgment in the best interests of our claimants, working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months.” She added that all payments would be backdated to the date in each individual claim.

“Although I and my department accept the High Court’s judgement, we do not agree with some of the detail contained therein.

Identify claimants entitled to more

“Our intention has always been to deliver the policy intent of the original regulations, as approved by parliament, and to provide the best support to claimants with mental health conditions,” she said.

The DWP must now identify people who may be entitled to more as a result of the court judgement.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said ministers had been wrong to “ignore” the view of an independent tribunal and to try and “defend the indefensible”.

Disability charity Scope chief executive Mark Atkinson described the original proposals as discriminatory.

He said: “This announcement is a victory for the many disabled people who have been unable to access support they are entitled to. The regulations introduced last March made crude and unfair distinctions between those with physical impairments and mental health conditions.”

Fine, now let’s see how quickly the DWP translates its defeat into action that helps people. I suspect higher payments may be a long time coming.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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DWP ordered to publish secret reports on failings of Atos and Capita

The information commissioner has ordered the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to release documents it has been keen to keep hidden. But the fight may not be over yet as the DWP says the position is being considered.

The documents in question are reports that are likely to reveal the widespread failings of two of its disability benefit assessment contractors. – Atos and Capita. These are two of the companies that assess applicants for disability benefits, such as people with disabilities from MS and other causes.

The story has been highlighted by journalist John Pring on the Disability News Service website. He writes:

reportsDWP has been attempting to prevent the documents being released since receiving a Freedom of Information Act request from campaigner John Slater in December 2016.

He said the documents – if and when they are eventually released – will reveal the truth about what DWP knows about Atos and Capita.

Last month, the two outsourcing companies, which are paid hundreds of millions of pounds to carry out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments, told members of the Commons work and pensions committee that they had never met contractual quality standards on the reports their staff write for DWP.

The documents Slater has been seeking could provide further evidence of such failings, and fuel campaigners’ fears that Atos and Capita have been told by DWP to find a certain proportion of claimants ineligible for PIP.

Under the terms of their contracts to assess claimants across England, Wales and Scotland for their eligibility for PIP, Atos and Capita must provide monthly reports to DWP that cover “all aspects of quality, including performance and complaints”.

The reports include detailed “management information”, including the number of complaints made against assessors, what proportion of assessments led to claimants meeting the PIP criteria, and the average length of time taken for face-to-face assessments.

Reports requested

Slater, who works in programme and project management when he is not campaigning on issues around freedom of information, had asked DWP to provide copies of these reports for every month of 2016.

He told Disability News Service that the reports would provide “raw data” on the companies’ performance, before DWP “has had a chance to massage it”.

He said: “I suspect what they will show is not only that the contractors are struggling but also how bad DWP is at managing contracts.”

DWP has continued to try to block Slater’s request, initially claiming that it did not hold the information he had requested, before arguing that releasing the monthly reports would prejudice the “commercial interests” of Atos and Capita.

It later told the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that releasing the information “will give rise to items being taken out of context… [and]will be misinterpreted in ways that could lead to reputational damage to both the Department and the PIP Providers”, and would “prejudice the efficient conduct of public affairs” by DWP.

It also warned ICO that the information could be “maliciously misinterpreted to feed the narrative that the Department imposes ‘targets’ for the outcomes of assessments”.

But ICO has now dismissed those arguments and has ordered DWP to release the reports, although it could now appeal against this decision to the information rights tribunal.

ICO concluded that it “has not been satisfied that disclosing the withheld information would be likely to damage the commercial standing of Atos and Capita” and “has not been persuaded by the DWP that it could not provide the necessary explanation, or context, to avoid misunderstandings”.

ICO also ruled that DWP had breached the Freedom of Information Act by initially failing to say within 20 working days whether it held the information Slater had requested.

Potentially significant

Slater has a similar appeal being dealt with by ICO relating to management information reports provided to DWP by Maximus, the contractor that carries out work capability assessments on its behalf.

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “The information commissioner’s ruling that the DWP must comply with John Slater’s freedom of information request on the performance information on the PIP contract is potentially very significant for disability campaigners.

“If the DWP cannot find a way to block or dodge this request (and they will try very hard to do this) this disclosure could reveal the full extent of the calamity that the PIP contract has visited on disabled people.

“It will also reveal exactly how much the DWP has known all along about how terrible performance on this contract has been.

“We as campaigners will be able to compare what they knew about the contract with the public statements that they have made, revealing the scale of lies and disinformation put out by the DWP to the public and parliament.

“While this in itself is not likely to be enough to bring down the festering sore that is PIP, it might represent another milestone on the way to achieving the end of PIP.

“We at DPAC applaud the work done by John Slater, and wish him well in continuing to pursue this and other investigations into the DWP that he is making.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We have received the ICO judgement and we are currently considering our position.”

Don’t get your hopes up. The phrase “considering our position” doesn’t mean that the DWP is about to capitulate. If it can find a way to avoid complying with the order, trust me, it will.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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More lies from a disability minister – this time to MPs

As soon as Esther McVey was work and pensions secretary, one of her junior minister  told lies to MPs. Not that parliamentarians call it telling lies. In their terms, disabilities minister Sarah Newton misled the house of commons.

lies

Sarah Newton MP, minister for people with disabilities.

Now, Department of Work and Pensions officials are making excuses. A DWP spokeswoman told Disability News Service the minister had not intended to discuss the proceedings in any depth, and: “The preparation for the ILF debate was carried out well before the reshuffle, and the minister had no prior knowledge of its outcome.”

The problem is, what Ms Newton told the house although McVey’s 2012 decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) was challenged with a judicial review, “throughout the process the DWP won on all points.”

That’s simply not true. That’s telling lies.

Journalist John Pring wrote on Disability News Service website: “The three judges unanimously overturned an earlier ruling by the high court and found that her (McVey) decision to close the fund was unlawful, and that she had breached the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

“She was heavily criticised by the judges, with one saying there was no evidence that she had “directed her mind to the need to advance equality of opportunity”.

lies

Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary.

As far as I am concerned, that means the DWP did not win on all points.

What actually happened was that, in 2012 when Esther McVey was disabilities minister, she closed the Independent Living Fund. The decision was challenged and, finally, three appeal court judges firmly rejected her decision.

Full details can be found here.

Ms McVey’s appointment to work and pensions secretary has been met with criticism.

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, spoke out. She said: “People see this as a deliberately provocative appointment.”

She added that they feel it will lead to further abuse and denial of rights for disabled people.

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “We can now expect an intensification of the government’s campaign of violations against the fundamental human rights of the UK’s disabled population.”

Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, was more cautious. She said McVey had “a very full in-tray when it comes to disabled people.

“We hope she’ll work with us to come up with practical responses to some of the critical issues around disabled people’s ability to live as full and equal citizens in the UK.”

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Fatigue makes it difficult to push on

I love writing. No surprise there, it has after all been a major part of my life. But, today, it’s not so easy because I have been hit by a bout of fatigue.

Fatigue is just one possible aspect of multiple sclerosis – but there are plenty of other causes too.

And for anyone fortunate enough not to be affected by fatigue, please don’t tell us to get a good night’s sleep. Be assured, that is not enough.

So, what is fatigue?

The medical information website healthline.com says:

Fatigue is a term used to describe an overall feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. It isn’t the same as simply feeling drowsy or sleepy. When you’re fatigued, you have no motivation and no energy. Being sleepy may be a symptom of fatigue, but it’s not the same thing.

Fatigue is a common symptom of many medical conditions, which range in severity from mild to serious. It’s also a natural result of some lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercise or poor diet.

If your fatigue doesn’t resolve with proper rest and nutrition, or you suspect it’s caused by an underlying physical or mental health condition, see your doctor. They can help diagnose the cause of your fatigue and work with you to treat it.

Why do we get fatigue?

Causes of fatigue can be described, in general terms, as your lifestyle, and your physical or mental health.

Healthline lists lifestyle factors as physical exertion, lack of physical activity, lack of sleep, being overweight or obese, periods of emotional stress, boredom, grief, taking certain medications such as antidepressants or sedatives, using alcohol on a regular basis, using street drugs such as cocaine, consuming too much caffeine, and not eating a nutritious diet.

We know that those of us with MS can get fatigue but there are other physical conditions that can also cause it. Healthline says these include, anemia, arthritis, bromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, infections such as cold and flu, Addison’s disease – a disorder that can affect your hormone levels, hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, sleep disorders such as insomnia, autoimmune disorders including MS, congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema.

As for mental health conditions, fatigue is a symptom of anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.

In my case, I’ll blame the MS but today the level of fatigue has been made worse by trying to do too much, too quickly.  Right now, I feel totally worn out and am having trouble keeping my eyes open.

Goodnight.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Nothing new promised by latest work and pensions secretary

The cabinet table seat of the work and pensions secretary must be fitted with an eject mechanism. Yet again, it has a new incumbent.

Indeed, in the 20 months since the sudden resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, the role has changed hands four times. And throughout that time, benefits for disabled people, including those with MS, have been under attack.

secretary

Esther McVey, new work and pensions secretary.

UK prime minister Theresa May on Monday appointed Esther McVey as the latest to run the Department for Work and Pensions. For her, it means a return to the department where she was minister for disabled people from 2012 to 2013.

So, what can we expect from the new head of the government department responsible for disability benefits? Sorry, but I can only see more of the same.

Just look back at what she did while she was in that more junior ministerial role. Freelance journalist and blogger Paul Lewis (@paullewismoney) tweeted: “As Minister for Disabled People she (Esther McVey) said 300,000 people would lose their benefits under her changes and she cut the walking test to get PIP from less than 50m to less than 20m.”

Secretary dedicated to cutting benefits

Wonderful! The new secretary of state is another Conservative politician dedicated to cutting benefits paid to disabled people. We need another change – this time a change for the better.

There have been many, many reactions to news of Ms McVey’s appointment and I see little point in repeating them all here. Instead, if you are interested in more information and comment, I would recommend taking a look at Vox Political Online.

This is an excellent blog written by left-wing journalist Mike Siver. His contribution to this story is “Esther McVey is now Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Expect many, many deaths”.

The headline may seem to be incendiary but is, nevertheless, a timely warning. After all, less than two months ago I brought you news that spending cuts had already led to 120,000 deaths. Needless deaths.

Bearing that in mind, Sivier’s headline looks quite reasonable.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Benefit assessment contractors hiding in plain sight

Assessments of people’s applications for disability benefits in the UK, are carried out by contractors for the government. That is, of course, well known.

It is equally common knowledge that those contractors are Atos, Capita, and Maximus. Between them, they have made hundreds of millions of pounds from their contracts with the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Quite a lucrative business, eh?

I’d say it is akin to a licence to print money at the expense, and terror, of those applying for either employment and support allowance (ESA) or personal independence payment (PIP).

Assessments, especially outcomes of face-to-face interviews with claimants, have been widely criticised – not least by tribunals that hear appeals against them.

Atos has tried to hide its involvement in PIP assessments by rebranding itself as Independent Assessment Services. It announced the change last summer. Call it what you will, though, it is still Atos Healthcare and its abysmal record – but in disguise.

But what, you may ask, is the Health Assessment Advisory Service of the grandly-named Centre for Health and Disability Assessments? Sounds as though it could be part of the government.

Assessments for benefits

The CHSA website says:

The Government provides certain benefits for people who are out of work due to long-term illness or as a result of a disability or health condition. The Government has decided that the best way to assess eligibility is through an independent health assessment under the Health Assessment Advisory Service.

Centre for Health and Disability Assessments provides the service on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The contract between DWP and Centre for Health and Disability Assessments started 1 March 2015.

Healthcare Professionals from Centre for Health and Disability Assessments conduct one-to-one assessments with individuals seeking disability benefits and delivers a report to DWP. DWP then uses this information to determine a person’s benefit entitlement.

assessmentAll the way through, the website fails to mention the real identity of who or what is behind the CHDA. Then, at the very bottom, under the name of the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, in small print it reveals ‘Operated by MAXIMUS’.

Surprise, surprise! Enough said, I think.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Just how are you coping with your health?

“Hi, how are you?” is, perhaps, today’s less formal equivalent of the traditional and polite greeting “How do you do?”

Of course, the greeting is only a rhetorical question and usually we say some form of “I’m fine, thanks.” Sometimes, we say it even when we could feel better.

When you have a serous illness, such as multiple sclerosis, you are sometimes asked a real question about your health, how the disease is affecting you, and so on. And that got me thinking, how am I getting on, how am I coping with MS? And, how are you doing?

how are youMS is certainly not new to me as my first symptoms appeared more than 40 years ago, although it was not definitely diagnosed until 2002. But, just how am I doing?

Regular readers will undoubtedly recall that I visited the HSCT facility in Moscow in October 2016, where it was discovered that I had a vitamin D deficiency. As a result of that, I began to take a daily supplement.

Then, at the end of October last year, I was seen by a neurologist here in Spain – having not seen one during my last 10 years living in the UK. Tests here showed by vitamin D deficiency had improved slightly but its level was still far too low. Additionally, they indicated a similar lack of vitamin B.

So, me medications have now been adjusted to increase significantly the amount of vitamin D supplement and to introduce a regular dose of vitamin B.

How are you? Better, worse, or the same

Have they had an impact? Well, it may be too early to tell. Any perceived gain could only be wishful thinking, but let me tell you what’s been happening.

I don’t usually use my wheelchair at home but Lisa has been unwell, so I have had to do more around the house. To enable me to do this, and to avoid the risk of falling, my neat folding motorized wheelchair has been pressed into use indoors.

On Friday, I drove into our nearest town to visit our bank and the supermarket. When I returned to my car, my wheelchair suffered a mechanical malfunction that turned out to be extremely minor and was fixed by a neighbour in less than five minutes when I got home.

Having left my chair with my neighbor, I had to get from my car into the house by myself. To most people, this would not cause a problem but to me, it was equivalent to a major trek.

I walked carefully up a ramp while holding onto a handrail, entered the house and made it to my armchair without any incident. I was not out of breath, and felt good.

It was a minor achievement that made me feel good, but was it the result of vitamin supplements or just one of my good days? Obviously, I cannot tell yet. But any improvement, no matter how small, must be seen as a sign of encouragement.

What about you, how are you getting on?

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Be positive about living life your way

life

If you are living with a disability, or a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis, how do you choose to approach life?

Some people will say “You must” or “You must not” do this, that, or the other. But, in my opinion, they are wrong. I will only urge you to do certain things, no more. No, ‘you must’ or ‘you should’. Not from me.

We are all individuals and need to form our own opinions and make our own decisions. The human race is not an actual race, not a contest. We are each unique and do not benefit from comparison to other people.

Therefore, what follows is not a list of rules to follow. They are just things that I do, that I would urge you to consider. 

Focus on what you can do – and do it. I put what I can no longer do where it belongs. By that, I mean as a happy memory from my past.

Keep calm. By that I mean, when faced with a problem or difficulty, I think about how to overcome it. It’s important not to panic, I take my time and think my way through it.

Don’t worry too much about the future. Sure, if there is anything that can be done to make life better, then by all means I’ll do it. However, in the words of an old song, “Whatever will be, will be, The future’s not ours to see”, so there is little point worrying about it. Perhaps it would be better to consider what we do with our lives now, rather than what might, or might not, happen in years to come.

Grasp opportunities in life

Live life to the full. I grasp every opportunity that presents itself. In the past six years, I have divorced and remarried; gone to the most northern point of mainland Europe; visited Hawaii, New York, and Moscow; crossed the Atlantic by cruise ship; and moved to live in Spain. There’s an adage in the business world that is perfect for us. And that is not to see problems as insurmountable obstacles but as opportunities to be taken. In other words, turn a negative into a positive.

Live your life as you want to live. While I urge you to live positively, ultimately how you live your life is your own decision.

Accept the love of those nearest and dearest to you, and make sure you show your love for them in return. Think about it for a moment, where would we be without their support?

No man is an island, so the saying goes, and that is true. Whether or not you have a disability, isolation is not an easy choice. While I prize my independence, as I am sure you do, sometimes I do need help. You will too. At such times, we don’t need to be too independent or proud to accept assistance – or even ask for it.

Value yourself. Please don’t fall into the trap of believing that your disability makes you worthless. You do have value as an individual with your own opinions, as a member of your community

Live your life, speak your truth. While speaking out will come easer to some than others, it is important that we speak for ourselves. We need to be our own advocates; no one else can do it as well as ourselves.

Happy New Year.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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New Year resolutions: Do we want or need them?

New Year resolutions may have their place in some people’s lives but not in mine. That’s not to say that I never set targets, and set out to achieve them, but I cannot see anything special about January 1.

Yes, it marks the start of a new calendar year – but, so what?

resolutions If you want to start, or stop, doing something in your life, then you should start doing so immediately. For example, give up smoking on March 23 or start a new diet on August 4. There is nothing magical about the beginning of January.

And, if truth be known, most New Year resolutions don’t last very long. Determination of most people, even those with the very best intentions, tends to wane fast and their resolutions quickly fall by the wayside. Mostly, this happens in months, if not weeks, or even days.

I am completely sure that I’d be one of those who give up and ditch their resolutions sooner than later. And this is fine for anybody who wants to do something, but not for someone who needs to do it.

‘Want’ vs ‘need’

There is a great deal of difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. As an example, you might ‘want’ to eat a large meal, but it isn’t a ‘need’. However, you do ‘need’ to eat to live. To put it simply, a ‘want’ is something you would like to have, but is not absolutely necessary. While a good thing to have, it is not essential. A ‘need’ is essential.

As someone with a chronic disease, in my case multiple sclerosis, the need to look after myself is extremely important. It could even be described as critical.

It includes keeping a careful watch on what I eat along with the amount and level of exercise I take. Also, through my doctor, I have to keep an eye on my vitamin levels, particularly B and D. I was found to be vitamin D deficient in 2016, and a couple of months ago my vitamin B level was discovered to be too low. I have now been prescribed supplements of both.

To live as healthy a life as possible is an ongoing need. It is not related to the New Year and will not be put aside like a resolution.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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It’s 2018 – some important events to watch out for this year

Happy New Year to you all.

To get your year off to a good start, here are a few important dates for your new 2018 diary.

February 1 – 3

ACTRIMS Forum, San Diego, California, USA

The third annual Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum is themed “Therapeutic Targets in MS: The Frontier and the Future of Disease Modifying Therapy”.

Highlights of the forum will include the Kenneth P. Johnson Memorial Lecture and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Barancik Award presentation and talk. In addition, two poster sessions will showcase approximately 200 posters.

April 7 – 15

MS Focus Cruise for a Cause, MS Focus at Sea – Mind and Body, aboard Celebrity Equinox.

A seven-night cruise to the Southern Caribbean, with educational programs from MS experts. MS Focus Cruise for a Cause offers on-board workshops and discussion groups on important topics to those with MS. Leading MS neurologists and other healthcare professionals will present the latest information on MS research and treatments. Also, on-board support group meetings will serve to motivate and inspire both people with MS and caregivers.

Cruisers will be able to get out and explore ports of Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; and Kralendijk, Bonaire.

April 23 – 24

International Conference on Brain and Neurological Disorders, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The main aim of the 7th International Conference on Brain Injury and Neurological Disorders is to provide an opportunity for establishing collegial relationships with the international professionals focused on the science of brain injury research.

May 30 – June 2

CMSC Annual Meeting, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

The Consortium of MS Centers annual meeting has a four-day agenda filled with lectures, symposia, workshops, roundtables, and satellite programs designed to enhance professional practice and improve treatment outcomes in multiple sclerosis. The annual meeting of the CMSC typically hosts over 2000 delegates and over 70 exhibitors.

The educational content designed to provide the latest information on the art and science of MS care. There are over 130 educational hours to meet the needs of our multi-disciplinary learners: physicians, nursing professionals, rehabilitation specialists, mental health experts, advocates, and pharmacists.

This year’s agenda features national and international experts on comprehensive care and research, basic information for novice clinicians, advanced clinical courses to enhance professional performance, and specific tracks for neurologic clinicians, nursing professionals, rehabilitation specialists, mental health experts, and patient advocates.

May 31 – June 2

23rd Annual Conference of Rims ‘MS Rehabilitation across the Lifespan’, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

The RIMS Conference is claimed to be the main European event for healthcare professionals, researchers and patient representatives. The aim is for them to share their knowledge and experiences, and collaborate on topics related to rehabilitation in Multiple Sclerosis.

In 2018, the conference main theme is ‘MS Rehabilitation Across the Lifespan’, and covers four areas: health promotion, supporting self-management, physical transition through the disease course, and social transition through the disease course.

July 16-17

25th World Congress on Neurology and Neurodisorders, Melbourne, Australia

The 25th World Congress on Neurology and Neurodisorders will be themed “Exploring Novel Technologies in Neurology and Neurological Disorders”. It aims to bring together medical professionals related to the field of neurology to discuss and spread awareness about the importance of prevention of neurological disorders and the challenges in this field. 

October 10 – 12

congress34th Congress of ECTRIMS, Berlin, Germany

European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) Congress has a programme designed to catch the most exciting new developments in all areas of multiple sclerosis, including treatment, genetics, pathology, imaging, immunology and epidemiology.

It highlights several topics including multi-omics analysis, big-data-mining, predictive algorithms, and medical robotics. ECTRIMS also wants to address recently emerging technologies with potentially high impact for multiple sclerosis, including proteomics, deep sequencing, immunophenotyping and molecular imaging.

Owing to the growing number and complexity of treatment options, the dialogue between “stakeholders” (neurologists, patients, health insurers, pharmaceutical industry) on the one side, and regulatory authorities on the other, is more important than ever. Organisers have therefore added several topics with specific input from regulators, including a hot topic on “Biosimilars in multiple sclerosis”, which impinge on worldwide access to immunomodulatory treatments.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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