No matter how wonderful friends and family can be, there are times when people want to talk to someone who understands exactly what they are going through—someone who has MS, too.
That’s where MSFriends come in. Volunteers with MS connect with callers to share how they live with MS and to help with problem-solving or challenges people with MS face in relationships. They may also help with symptom management. People can call to speak to an MSFriend at 866-673-7436, 7 a.m. until midnight, Eastern Time. Or they can leave a message and get a call back the next day.
The program got its start in 2005 under the umbrella of the VisionWorks Foundation, but is now being administered directly by the Society. “This allows us to expand the ways people living with MS can connect,” said Kimberly Koch, MPA, Associate Vice President, Family and Support Programs for the Society. “It’s nationwide, so people can get involved even if their chapter doesn’t have a peer support program.”
There are currently about 40 volunteers. Koch hopes to expand this to about 100. All have MS themselves, but in the future, other family members or care partners may be recruited. The main difference between the Society’s MS Navigator™ program and MSFriends is that the Navigators’ primary job is to get people referred and connected to resources, while the Friends’ job is to listen and provide emotional support. If you’d like to be an MSFriend, call us about training.
MSFriends averages 9,000 calls a year, and they are completely confidential. “MSFriends allows people to connect when they feel like it, unlike self-help groups, which meet at a specific time,” said Koch. “If your question comes up at an odd hour, there’s a place to reach out for support.”