9 Ways to Find Support for MS in Rural Communities

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We live in a wonderful time where most people have access to endless amounts of information and support. However, if you live in a rural area, you may struggle to find local resources. Here is a list for you! I have compiled resources designed for people with limited access to internet, other patients, and specialists.


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The MS Navigators

The MS Navigators is a program put together by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) and is basically your one-stop shop for all resources MS-related. If you remember only one resource, make sure it’s the MS Navigators! You can call, email or live chat with a Navigator who can help you find the closest resources to where you live including support groups, doctors, financial assistance and so much more. Contact by phone at (800) 344-4867, option #1 or contact by email at contactUSNMSS@nmss.org.


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Local support groups

The best resource out there is a connection with another patient. In-person events like monthly support groups, where you can make those connections, are so valuable on a MS journey. Contact the NMSS or the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to ask them if there is a group within a reasonable distance to your home. If there isn’t, you should start one! Even if you only connect with one other patient, that is time well spent!


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Telephone-based support groups

The NMSS hosts a program called MS Friends that connects patients or caregivers with other people who know first-hand what it’s like to live with MS. These one-on-one conversations are completely confidential, so you can call and talk about anything that’s on your mind. If you’re looking to connect with other people who will understand you and your life, this is a good place to start. Call (866) 673-7436, from 9 a.m. to midnight, EST, seven days a week.


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The MSAA Lending Library program

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America offers a free lending library program with an extensive collection of DVDs and books that contain information about MS disease and symptom management that you can borrow for up to 45 days. The MSAA covers all the shipping costs to and from your home, so this is a great resource if your local library doesn’t have a lot of MS related books.


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Durable medical equipment loans

There are many different organizations that offer loans of medical equipment across the country. If you’re in need of equipment because your insurance doesn’t cover it or there isn’t a local store, reach out to the MS Navigators for their help on how to find a program near you. You may be able to find walking aids, wheelchairs, shower benches, and more.


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Free webinar series

The NMSS offers free webinars hosted by MS experts, to help you learn different tactics and strategies for living with MS. The topics can range from nutrition to communication tips and anything in between. If you don’t have access to an MS specialist, this could be a good way to stay on top of current research and treatment developments.


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Grant programs

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation offers a slew of amazing grant programs that could help you where you live. Some of their grants provide laptops for people on a fixed income, home nurse assistance, health insurance assistance, as well as their well-known cooling program, which offers a variety of items, free of charge, that will help you stay cool in the heat, like cooling vests, neck wraps, wristbands, and hats. There are so many wonderful options through these grants, be sure to check all of them out and apply for those that might make your life a little easier.


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State specific programs

Each state has their own programs for assistance and resources so I would encourage you to contact your local NMSS chapter to see what they offer in addition to reaching out to the Federal Office of Rural Health and the National Rural Health Association. There are so many programs available, but many are underutilized because they aren’t well-known and may require you to do some digging to find out what is available to you locally.


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Take advantage of existing programs

Studies show that people living with MS in rural areas report their symptoms later and get diagnosed later than those in more populated cities, so it is really important that you stay on top of your care. Although living in a rural area may make finding care and support more difficult, there are many resources out there to help you through your MS journey. It may take some time to navigate your way through what is available to you, but it will be time well spent!