Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference in quality of life and maintaining independence.
If you have relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis, as I do, it’s easy to overlook simple things that can make life easier when in relapse. Since my own diagnosis in 2004, I have come to appreciate some simple household helpers that assist me in managing daily life with MS.
1. Tall Stool for Kitchen Work: An inexpensive solution to a big problem. If standing at the kitchen counter for any length of time is a problem, a tall stool is just the right height for kitchen duty. Get in the habit of gathering together everything you’ll need in one spot rather than making multiple trips around the kitchen. Grab the stool, have a seat and enjoy your kitchen again. Make sure the stool has firm support and no arms so you can easily maneuver. You don’t need to buy anything fancy or go to a specialty store — any tall stool will do.
2. Mobility Aids: An adjustable folding cane can be tucked away in a large purse, suitcase, or car, out of sight and out of mind until you need it. There is even a cane that folds out into a stool! They are available in lots of styles and colors, too. If you need them, lightweight, folding wheelchairs and walkers are excellent devices for people who only need them occasionally.
3. Shower Chair: If you have difficulty with balance and strength, the shower can be a little intimidating, but a small, sturdy shower chair can give you back your confidence, and can be easily moved aside when not needed. Grab bars can also boost safety. While you are thinking about the bathroom, you may want to consider investing in a blow dryer stand to relieve your uncooperative arms.
4. Handicapped Parking Placard: People with multiple sclerosis often appear healthy and strong even though they have difficulty walking for any length of time. Problems with fatigue, stamina, balance, and coordination can interfere with daily activities. If you have difficulty walking or standing for more than a few minutes, you might want to consider applying for a placard. The ability to park close to a place of business or shopping center could make all the difference in the world when it comes to maintaining a sense of independence. The information you need, along with the application, are available online from the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state.
5. Sensible Shoes: Sensible shoes don’t have to be ugly shoes. High heels and pointed toes aren’t very sexy if you teeter around on the brink of disaster all day. Opt for shoes with a low heel and sturdy construction. Shoes that have no support at the heel and do not stay put when you walk can cause trips and falls. Even flip flops can cause trouble if you have difficulty walking. For hanging around the house, lightweight slippers with flexible soles that move with your foot are comfortable and safe.
6. Cooling Products: Heat and humidity makes it even more difficult for already damaged nerve fibers to transmit electrical impulses, resulting in an exaggeration of MS symptoms (pseudo-exacerbation), which may include fatigue, dizziness, and extreme weakness. A simple rotating fan can make a big difference. Information on Cooling Programs: Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: Cooling Program, Multiple Sclerosis Association of America: Cooling Equipment Distribution Program, National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Cooling Product Information and Assistance.
7. Visual Aids: Most drug stores and department stores have magnifying reader glasses at various strengths. Magnifying screens, good lighting, and a host of options for your computer help people with visual disturbances.
8. Handy Helpers Around the House: Devices to help you reach reach things in high places, gripping tools for opening jars, and even pens made for people who have trouble with their grip make little chores easy again.
9. Yoga/Wii: Yoga is often recommended for people with MS and there are programs designed specifically with MS in mind, including exercises that can be done from a wheelchair. Wii is more than just a game and Wii Fit includes some yoga positions and a series of exercises to improve your balance and coordination. With no need to leave home, you can progress at your own pace.
10. Stress Reducers: Your spirit needs some TLC, too. Try using candles and essential oils with calming scents like lavender and sandlewood as you go about your household chores. Water fountains bring the soothing sounds of a stream or brook inside your home. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can rejuvenate in just minutes a day. Don’t neglect the mind/body connection.
Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to Care2.com’s Reform Health Policy blog in Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo.