Tag Archives: Caregiver

Spotlight: Britney Helm, Support Group Leader, Milwaukee

Recently we interviewed Britney Helm, one of our new support group leaders! She’s excited to be starting a group in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and invites you to get involved. If you are interested in joining this support group or learning more, contact Britney at brit12@gmail.com.

formal pic britney
SF: Why did you decide to start a support group?

BH: When I was diagnosed with Scleroderma, I researched online and found a lot of information. I had no one to help me deal with the emotional and physical part of the disease.  After being a member of another Scleroderma group, I realized that there is a need in the local area to help one another.

SF: When and where will your group meet?

BH: We meet every 3rd Saturday of the Month from 10am-12pm.
Location:  Froedert Hospital – 8700 W Watertown Plank Rd, Wauwatosa, WI 53226

–Community Conference Room 2 located in the Wisconsin Athletic Club building.  Enter building on the 87th Street side look for Community Conference Room entrance.

SF: What are you looking forward to the most in being involved with this group?

BH: The most important part of this group to me is to help others.  This disease is scary and is unknown throughout the community. Nothing is better than to have your fellow Scleroderma members coming together supporting each other.

SF: How do you intend to help or inspire others?

BH: I hope to encourage others that this disease can define a part of who you are, but it can’t take your joy.

SF: Can you tell us a few interesting facts about yourself?

BH:
I love to laugh.

I have hunted alligators in the Panamanian jungle

I love snow, but hate being cold.  I have a lot of gadgets, and a kit that helps keep me warm.

I drive a motorcycle as much as I can, like cars, and getting dirty with tools.

I love to travel.

SF: Do you have any words of advice for other patients and caregivers?

BH:

For patients: Be your own advocate.  Never just take a doctor’s word.  Do your own research and journal your symptoms.

For caregivers: This is tricky because I have seen very supportive people run for the hills.  Caregivers, you will never understand what is going on with Scleroderma patients because the Scleroderma patient doesn’t even know half of the time.  Be patient and understanding.  We are always cold; we are tired but we still want to have fun.  To have fun we have to charge our battery to have a little bit of excitement.  Be patient with us, we are delicate.

 

Britney Helm Group

Britney Helm with her 2015 Germantown, WI  Walk Team

 

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Preparing for a Doctor Appointment

Patients that have been diagnosed with scleroderma often have many questions regarding how to prepare for their doctor appointments. Common questions include: how to have multiple physicians talk to each other and how to have your physician pay attention to concerns and not be in such a rush. Here are tips for your next appointment.

  1. Prepare for your appointment. What do you hope to achieve and what do you need to know? Thinking about these things ahead of time can help you get the most out of it.
  2. Make sure you write down your symptoms as they occur so you don’t forget to tell your doctor everything that’s going on with your body. Consider keeping a journal.
  3. Your first appointment with the doctor may be very long to obtain an extensive health history. However, other appointments may be much shorter. Be aware of this time constraint. If you need more time, schedule extra time with the receptionist.
  4. Unless you are required to fast, don’t be afraid to bring snacks. You never know exactly how long the appointment will be.
  5. It may be helpful to write down your list of questions, ordered by priority, to hand to your doctor at the beginning of the appointment. That way, your concerns are listed and each will be addressed.
  6. Bring a friend or relative with you so the appointment is not as overwhelming. They can help remember what the doctor said as well as be an advocate for you.
  7. Don’t forget to mention all current medications, alternative therapies, and vitamins you’re taking as they could be contraindicated.
  8. You should be able to trust your doctor, but you are your best advocate and should seek a second opinion if you feel it’s needed. If you aren’t your own best advocate, who is?
  9. Bring a calendar with you to plan for your next appointment. Do not hesitate to call your doctor if symptoms worsen or if you have questions before the next appointment.
  10. Treat yourself after your appointment! Many of us are busy taking care of family, friends, work and other responsibilities. Use these days as a reminder to do something for yourself, even if it’s as simple as stopping for a coffee.

REMEMBER: This is YOUR appointment and you are allowed to ask questions, challenge what is said and be your own advocate. If you have multiple physicians, ask how they are able to work together and what can be done to strengthen your team of doctors.

A helpful acronym to use as you prepare for your next appointment: DOCTOR

Document all of your questions to give to your doctor

Over prepare for your appointment-what do you wish to achieve?

Call your doctor if you have any questions or worsening symptoms

Take a friend or relative with you

Overbook-schedule extra time with your doctor if you need or want more time

Reward yourself after the appointment

Providing Support for Friends and Family with Scleroderma

Friends and family members of those diagnosed with Scleroderma often have many questions about how they can best provide support for their loved ones. This is especially true for those who are unfamiliar with Scleroderma and it’s symptoms, progression, and overall impact. After familiarizing yourself with the disease, there are many simple things that you can do to help provide a support system that your loved one will appreciate.

  • Start by simply asking your loved one what you can do to help. Oftentimes those affected by illness may be apprehensive to ask for help because they don’t want to feel that they are a burden to others.
  • Don’t focus solely on the illness, but rather on your loved one and their physical and mental well-being. Whether they choose to discuss Scleroderma is at their discretion, but it is important to remember not to let this illness define your relationship.
  • Maintain honest, open communication with your loved one. Allowing feelings and frustration to bottle up is never healthy.
  • Some simple ways to help ease daily living activities include things like parking closer when making visits to the store or doctor’s office, as patients can oftentimes experience a great deal of fatigue with Scleroderma.
  • It is important to encourage independence, but offering to take over chores like washing dishes or going to the grocery store can mean a lot to your loved one.
  • Seek out other caregivers. Places to turn for caregiver support can include other family members and friends of the patient (provided that the they have chosen to disclose their illness with others at this time), a therapist or counselor, church or other place of worship, and national caregiver organizations.

Remember that as a friend, family member, or caregiver of someone diagnosed with Scleroderma that you are not alone. There are many great resources available, including support groups located throughout the country. Many of these groups meet in person, and telephone support may be available as well. The Scleroderma Foundation’s website offers a list organized by state that can be used to find a group meeting near you.