Ponolar Collins was diagnosed with MS in 1990, although she began experiencing numbness and tingling in her fingers years before. She worked as a Senior Collector at a bank for years until the symptoms worsened. Ponolar recalls the day when her arm went completely numb and, from that day forward, learned to adapt to the progression of this chronic, unpredictable, and disabling disease.
After living independently for years, Ponolar knew she needed a higher level of care and physical therapy. In 2009, she came to Hillcrest Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Long Beach, CA with over 50 residents with MS. She maintains a positive attitude despite a loss of autonomy, compromised quality of life, and social isolation.
Approximately 30–40% of individuals are diagnosed with progressive MS. More than 18,000 people with MS reside in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) across the United States, and more than half are younger than age 65, with a substantial number in their thirties and forties.
As a partner in MS care, the Chapter has worked with Hillcrest to complement the Center’s provision of skilled care for MS residents with therapeutic exercise and a full range of emotional, social, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and recreational activities. Recently, the Chapter also launched the MSConnect Project, which aims to utilize ever-advancing tablet technology to transform isolation into connection for individuals like Ponolar.
Since the introduction of the MSConnect Project, Ponolar has learned to use an iPad to communicate with friends and family; to connect with the world by accessing current news and social networks; and to keep her mind stimulated with games and puzzles, including her favorite, Scrabble. The tablet's usage of tapping and swiping movements is easier, for people like Ponolar with manual dexterity issues, to operate versus manipulating a standard computer keyboard or a mouse. The shorter learning curve of the tablet also makes this the device of choice, especially for those facing the cognitive challenges of attention and thought processing.
Why Should I Help Fund the MSConnect Project?
The latest advances in touch-screen technology make tablet use much more accessible for people with a wide range of significant disabilities. As this technology continues to revolutionize how we interact with the world, these advances can make an extraordinary impact on individuals with MS, especially for those residing in SNFs by transforming isolation into connection.
Mary Ann Holm, MSW, Manager of Clinical Services at the National MS Society explained, "I often visit people with MS at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities. Though they are physically challenged, they are still young and vibrant individuals who, like you and I, thrive in environments that support our intellectual, emotional and social needs. I have seen many slowly disappear into a world of isolation and loneliness. The tablet technology is a bridge back to the world where they once participated. Email, Facebook and Skype are just a few of the applications that can keep the connection alive and various other software programs can keep people intellectually stimulated and engaged."