When you have multiple sclerosis, one way to make your life easier is to simplify things at home. Too many items on countertops, desks, and tables make it harder to find things. Clutter on the floor can be a tripping hazard. Look at what you have in each room. Do you really need it all? If not, clear it out.
Set Up 'Work Centers'
Create "work centers" where you can sit to do activities. Stock them with everything you need for that activity -- whether it's putting on makeup and styling your hair, chopping vegetables, or working at a computer.
Get in the Zone
Figure out your "easy reach zone." If you're standing, it's between your knees and a few inches above your head. If you're in a wheelchair, it's between 15 and 51 inches from the ground. Put the things you use often, like keys or cleaning supplies, in that zone. Use hooks, hanging baskets, storage carts, and pegboards to keep things handy.
Stick With It
Can simple sticky fabrics like Velcro really make living with MS easier? Yes. Use them to fasten clothing and keep seat cushions from sliding; or to hang a cane on the wall or secure the remote so it doesn't get buried in sofa cushions. Literally stick pens and paper in strategic spots, so they're always handy. Lasso stray wires. The products come in many sizes and colors.
Don't be narrow-minded when planning space for a walker, wheelchair, or scooter. You’ll want enough space to be able to move around freely. For wheelchair clearance, you'll need:
36 inches for outside doors
32 inches for inside doors
To widen doorways, it may be enough to simply replace standard door hinges with expandable offset ones. They give you a little more space. Or you could remove the door and even the doorframe. Rearrange furniture so you have wide paths and easy access to things like light switches and thermostats.
Rise to New Heights in the Bathroom
Getting up and down from the toilet is easier with a raised seat that fits over your regular one. Choose portable or permanent, with arms or without. "Grab bars" in the shower, tub, and near the toilet can smooth moving up and down. And they don't have to scream "hospital" anymore. Many new designs are more likely to say "spa." Newer built-in and fold-up shower benches are also more stylish.
Stress-Free Food Prep
A little planning in the kitchen can save energy.
Gather everything you need to prepare a meal ahead of time. You can use a moving cart to roll your supplies where you want them.
Keep heavy pots and pans on the counter instead of in a cabinet. That way you can slide, rather than lift, them into place.
Modified tools like easy-grip handles can help if you have tremors or weakness.
Get a Better Grip
If you have trouble gripping or turning, replace round knobs with lever-style handles. If you can't replace them, find a rubber grip online. With some models, you can open doors with just a finger. These handles slip on and off, so they're good for travel. Some can be used on water faucets, too.
Get Rid of Tripping Hazards
Plush, cushiony carpet may seem like a good idea if you’re a little unsteady on your feet. But it can actually make it harder to walk and easier to fall. To prevent falls:
Try to choose smooth, non-skid floors.
Remove throw rugs. If a space needs a rug or mat, secure it to the floor with double-sided carpet tape and non-slip backing.
Tie up curtain and shade cords and corral electric and computer cords so they're out of the way. And keep the floor clear of anything that could get in your way.
Use High Contrast for Low Vision
MS can hurt your vision. With a couple of rolls of tape and a little effort, you can make things easier to see:
The key is to place light against dark to create contrast and make things more visible. Tape can be very useful in this way, but your selection of tools can help you as well. For example, using a light cutting board when chopping dark food.
Mark stair edges with bright or contrasting tape.
Use paint or tape to outline light switches or mark handles, knobs on appliances, or lines on a measuring cup.
Cut Glare to See Better
Glare and abrupt changes of light don't help when you have low vision, as some people with MS do. Use nightlights to ease the way from a dark hallway into a bright bathroom at night. Blinds or sheer curtains on windows can filter light from outside. Let lamps shine over your shoulder, from behind and the side, so they don't cast a shadow. Replace fluorescent light with incandescent bulbs if they cause glare.
If you have problems with vision or balance, you may use furniture and walls to steady yourself when you walk. But furniture isn’t always stable. Handrails in hallways and even in other rooms can be a big help. Like the newer bathroom grab bars, they can look stylish. Keep doors wide open or shut, so you don't grab onto one that may move.
Stairs Made Easier
Stairs don't have to spell trouble if you have a sturdy banister to hold on to on each side. Fitted or temporary ramps are another option. Make sure a ramp doesn’t rise more than 1 inch per foot, is 30 to 40 inches wide, and has handrails on both sides. A platform or electric chair lift is also an option if you don't have space for a ramp. Most health insurance companies (including Medicare and Medicaid) help with some of the cost.
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AbleData: "Grasping Aid for Hand."
Can Do Multiple Sclerosis: "Top Ten Gizmos and Gadgets to Move You," "In the Kitchen With MS."
Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Greater Hartford: "The Ups and Downs of Ramps."
Houzz: "Bathroom Safety Features That Support Your Style."
Multiple Sclerosis Society UK: "Home Adaptations."
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "At Home With MS," "Affording Stair Lifts, Ramps, and Wheelchairs."
Real Simple: "101 New Uses for Everyday Things."
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago LIFE Center: "Home Modifications Suggestions for Low Vision."
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Balance and Falls in MS."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.