A number of years ago, in recognition of our expertise in supporting members who have multiple sclerosis, ICS was named a “Center of Excellence in Long Term Care” by the National MS Society. Of course, this made us proud, but even more significant, this recognition endorsed a very important idea: people with different disabilities have different needs and require disability-specific individualized care.
A typical long-term care program serves the frail elderly population and often has programs designed to meet their needs. When ICS opened its doors, we concentrated on caring for people with physical disabilities to distinguish and address their different long-term needs. In that spirit, we started programs, such as a wheelchair clinic, to meet those needs. Then, over the first few years, we began to see that there were different needs even within the disabled population. People who were living with MS often had changes to their function where those with other conditions, such as a spinal cord injury, were more likely to remain stable in their abilities.
Even in a city like New York, with its extensive network of healthcare providers, people with MS often have great difficulty finding doctors who are experienced with their conditions, knowledgeable about community-based supports, and understand MS-related medical, emotional, and physical needs. That’s a huge problem, because people with MS have specific medical needs that, if unmet, put their health at great risk.
ICS has longstanding relationships with many of the New York City MS clinics where our members with MS receive their medical care. If members are not linked, we help them get connected to a center so that they can have access to a team of people who understand their condition and needs. ICS staff are specifically assigned to those facilities to coordinate our members’ services and facilitate communication with their medical providers. This not only helps members understand and follow the advice of their doctors, it also allows us to quickly put services in place when a member’s condition changes unexpectedly – which often happens with MS.
For example, as MS progresses, customized mobility assistance and bowel and bladder management become essential. Without these preventative measures, a urinary tract infection or pressure injury can easily land someone with MS in the hospital. That’s why ICS provides comprehensive wheelchair fittings, dedicated wound prevention, and bowel and bladder management training. ICS members with MS also have access to peer mentors, who can help them build new coping skills, and provide an important social network.
MS expert care management
Something we believe is especially important at ICS is the MS care management team. ICS MS team nurses and social workers receive an addition level of education and training, and sit for a certification exam given by the Consortium of MS Centers. This ensures that they have the specialized knowledge to effectively address the MS-specific needs of the members in their care. It also empowers them to educate the member, their aides, and family members about the condition, how to manage symptoms, and how to recognize, prevent or minimize complications.
Want to know more? Watch MS Team Nurse Melissa Cruz, pictured above, talk about getting her MS certification.
Promoting members’ self-care
Another way that ICS cares for members with MS is through partnerships that give them the opportunity to exercise, which is essential to maintaining their best possible health. These include exercise classes provided by the MS Society at the ICS member center in Brooklyn, a partnership with Wheeling Forward that gives members access to a gym with fully-accessible exercise equipment in Manhattan, and a partnership with Fox Rehabilitation that offers customized home exercise regimens to help prevent falls.
The ICS MS Program was created in 2006 by Rachael Stacom, a widely-recognized expert in the field of MS, who today is ICS Senior Vice President for Care Management. Rachael recently said, “I was drawn to ICS after seeing the health inequalities that existed for those who were physically disabled. After 18 years at ICS, I have seen how successful ICS is at addressing those inequities, and I am so grateful to be a part of the work that ICS does.”