These Home Accommodations Can Make Living With MS Easier

The MS community shares tips for improving accessibility at home

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by Ed Tobias |

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What do you do to make living with multiple sclerosis (MS) easier?

A similar question was posed to readers of the MS News Today Facebook page recently, and about 175 people responded. Even an MS old-timer like me (I’ve been living with the disease for 42 years and counting) found a few new ideas, so I thought I’d share some of what was suggested.

In the bedroom

Let’s start with the room in the house where I think many of us feel the most comfortable. The bedroom is where we can escape some of our aches and pains, ease our fatigue, and dream of climbing mountains (or at least a flight of stairs). But the bedroom also has its challenges.

I find it hard to get comfortable in bed because, for some reason, my legs get wrapped up in the sheets. So when someone suggested silk sheets, I thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Note: Check with spouse or partner before ordering.

Recommended Reading

18 Common Home Modifications to Improve Life With MS

In the bathroom

Some bathroom items are obvious. Grab bars in the shower should be a priority for safety and confidence. A no-slip shower surface is also a good safety item. A shower chair is helpful. I don’t always use mine, but I’m very glad it’s there if I get too warm or am having one of those days when my legs are weaker than usual. A back brush is also a help.

If you’re thinking about having your shower redone, see if you can get a no-lip entry. The shower floor is slightly tilted toward the drain in the center so that all the water is forced to flow that way. This allows the entry to be level with the bathroom floor. That’s one less thing to step over, and a wheelchair can be rolled right in. While you’re in the mood for a bathroom redo, a toilet that’s a few inches higher than standard can make it easier to get on and off.

A simple but great suggestion was buying a terry cloth robe for the shower. Toweling can sometimes create balance problems for me. Letting the robe do the drying might make things easier.

In the kitchen and dining room

I think a lot of people don’t realize how heavy some plates, bowls, pots, and pans can be. My wife and I learned the hard way. After buying some expensive but heavy items, we went back and bought ones that are lighter and cheaper. A grabber that extends your reach can also be a big help if you’re in a scooter or a wheelchair, or if you’re short, like me.

A few people mentioned three-tiered rolling carts. One wrote, “I have some food and vitamin items on the cart that are now on the table. I’m going to put the cart 4 steps away so I can roll it to the table if I need something on it. I just can’t keep getting up and down to get things but the clutter on the table is driving me nuts.”

A small stool with a back rest can make activities easier on the legs and back, whether you’re cooking or doing dishes. We have one with wheels, but not everyone might be comfortable with that.

A new find was a knife in the shape of a slightly off-angle L. The person who suggested it uses it to cut her food. “My hands are in a lot of pain. This knife is changing a position of your fingers which helps a lot with pain,” she wrote.

Get out the checkbook, or maybe not

Living with MS can mean a lot of expenses, led by our medications, so something as big as a bathroom renovation may not be in the cards for you. But some of the suggestions listed here are inexpensive. I found a shower chair for less than 30 bucks. A three-tiered cart can be bought for about $35. The L-shaped knife sells for $15. Even satin sheets aren’t terribly bad.

If you need something more expensive, such as that lipless shower, you might be able to find help from an MS organization such as the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America in the U.S. or the MS Society in the U.K.

On the other hand, if you can afford it, some companies specialize in making homes more accessible. In 2019, I wrote about a company in Vermont called Wheel Pad that will even make an accessible add-on to your house.

How have you made life easier in your home? Share your experiences with us in the comments below. You’re also invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Lisa Cunningham avatar

Lisa Cunningham

Hi Ed,
An additional accommodation would be a hand held shower head. Also, the MSAA provided me with two portable ramps, one for my back door and one to keep in the car for travel needs.

A source for payment of accommodations is the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. This is a federal and state funded program found in most states. It helps people with documented disabilities to find a job and keep the job. I work full-time and have been using a wheelchair for almost 15 years. For me, they paid for the modifications to my car, a ramp to the front door, a wheelchair accessible bathroom and closet, and a stairlift to the second floor of my house. I would not have been able to continue working without the accommodations to my house and car.

Best regards, Lisa

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

That's great info, Lisa. I also have a hand held shower head. I don't usually use it but it's there if I need it. I'm sure many here will also appreciate the MSAA ramp info as well as the rehab program.

Ed

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Paul Kerr avatar

Paul Kerr

1. If you are a caregiver, listen to the patient's complaints. Maybe not in the first time you hear it, maybe the 10th or more, but you might catch a different way of thinking about an issue, and it goes from being "that's just the way it is" to a problem you can analyze and solve with a change.
2. Sometimes the solution is upside down. We looked at extensively remodeling our bathroom for better accessibility but later the challenges were all at floor level. A ceiling-mounted lift that can move L/R and forward/backward made the floor completely irrelevant. Not only is the shower now accessible, so is the jetted tub which my wife hasn't been able to use for a decade. It's not cheap, but cost about 1/4 what a remodel would have cost and does far more for safety as well as utility.
3. If you're an aging caregiver, think about how you will maintain the care no matter what. I wrote a list, and #1 was make every transfer safe and comfortable every time. I analyzed every one of them, eliminating some, using assistive devices, etc.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Excellent advice, Paul. Thanks very much for sharing.

Ed

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Brian avatar

Brian

Very informative and useful! You’re right, “normal” people don’t understand how even the simplest things can be such a challenge to us MS’ers. Holding a knife is risky, I like the idea of an L shaped knife.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your comments. Gotta watch those knives. I cut myself slicing a bagel the other day. :-). I'm glad this was useful to you, and I hope to others.

Ed

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Emma Heseltine avatar

Emma Heseltine

In Australia we have the National Disability Insurance Scheme funded by ourselves, the taxpayer. My husband with MS quadriplegia has several hundred thousand per annum to purchase everything he needs. Powerchair, continence supplies, technology, home mods, respite and all the support workers we can find. We are very fortunate in this country, I wish others were too.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Emma,

I love Australia. We have friends in Sydney who keep telling me about your wonderful healthcare system. Want a couple of immigrants from the States?

Ed

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Cynthia avatar

Cynthia

I completely eliminated the top sheets and only use a quilt as a cover. It's the perfect weight and warmth , and I don't get my feet tangled in it.
Also , I use a bath lift. Great invention !
I have been living with MS for over 50 years , and am able to still do a lot independently .... mostly because of all the wonderful aids available.
I so appreciate this forum and all the information about MS

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Cynthia,

I'm very glad that the info on our website is useful to you and thanks for those suggestions. We all learn when we all share. Or, should I say "it takes a village?"

Ed

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kathologist avatar

kathologist

Cane with fold out seat

I'm still in partial denial of just how impaired I am physically. I have a cane that has a small seat that slides into place to morph into a tripod seat. I didn't use it for the first year. Now I am so glad I have it. Standing in place for any reason longer than a minute is excruciating. There's never a convenient place to sit so now that worry is covered.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Kath,

I've seen people using canes and walkers with seats and they look like great helps. I decided, years ago, it's better to use aids that help with comfort and safety but it did take me quite a while to do that.

Ed

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Jen avatar

Jen

Ed, it's possible to get sheets that are cotton but with a satin strip at the shoulder to hip level. They come in S, D, Q and K-size. And for Aussie readers, all these helpful ideas, from grab-sticks to bathroom modifications, are fully covered by our beloved National Disability Insurance Scheme. Gotta love socialism!

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Jen - Yet another reason why this Yank loves Australia. Thanks for the tip. I had no idea there were sheets that were combo cotton and satin.

Ed

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Donna Keller avatar

Donna Keller

I live in the State of Ohio and have had MS for 29 years. Any time that I requested some help from the MS society I am told no '"We don't help with that ". I am currently on Medicaid and can't afford some of the things that could help me. Any suggestions?
Thank you

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

I'm sorry that's the case, Donna. Have you tried the MS Association of America (MSAA)? They have assistance programs for specific items.

Ed

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