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How to Make Your Home Safe When You Have MS

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on June 05, 2021

If your multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms are making it hard for you to move around, it may be time to make a few changes to your home. Some simple tweaks can go a long way to prevent a nasty fall or make it easier for you to work in your kitchen.

You may want to talk to a rehabilitation or occupational therapist, who can show you how to adapt spaces to your needs. And check with an accountant to see if any equipment you install can be deducted from your taxes.

For some changes, you may need to hire a contractor, but for others, a handy friend or neighbor can help. See if a few of these adjustments are right for different areas of your home.

Entryway

Get a portable ramp that goes over the threshold of your front doorway so you don't have to go up steps. You can also buy a keyless entry lock and electric door opener. They open the door for you when you press a keypad or remote control.

If you're in a wheelchair or scooter, your outside doors should be 36 inches across so it can fit through. Sometimes, just changing the hinges makes the difference.

You may want to remove any pieces of wood or metal at your threshold to keep from tripping.

Inside your house, replace doorknobs with lever-style handles. They're easier to turn.

Kitchen

Save your energy when preparing food. Use stools or chairs that are high enough to let you sit at your countertop while you cook or use the sink. You can reduce your meal prep time by using a food processor, blender, or microwave oven.

Look for kitchen aids that make preparing meals easier and safer. Get nonskid mats for counters so your bowls and cutting board won't slide around. You can also buy lightweight cookware that's easy to pick up and carry from the stove to the counter.

These tools can also help with meal prep:

  • Utensils with easy-grip handles
  • Grabbers to help you reach items on high shelves
  • Electric can opener
  • Rocker knives to help you cut food with less effort

If you’re remodeling, think about taking out cabinets under the sink so you can pull in closer with a scooter or wheelchair. Add insulation to the pipes to avoid burns.

You can lower a countertop to make it easier to work while you’re in a chair.

Choose an electric stove with controls in the front or center. And ask your contractor to raise the height of your dishwasher so it’s easier to reach.

Living and Dining Room

To make your lounging area comfy and safe, get a raised chair or lift cushions. They can help you get in and out of your seat more easily. Ask a friend or family member to arrange furniture so it's easier to avoid obstacles.

Raise the height of desks and tables with blocks. It will make it easier for you to sit comfortably if you're in a wheelchair. It's also good for your posture and can cut tremors by keeping your arms in a stable position.

Avoid throw rugs, because they can add to your risk of falling. If you do get them, make sure they’re nonskid or secure them with carpet tape. Thick carpets are harder to walk on or wheel over. If you're remodeling, trade it for smooth, nonskid floors.

Use extension cords that let you plug in lamps and gadgets without reaching for the outlet, but make sure they're not in the path where you walk.

Because multiple sclerosis can affect your eyesight, add lamps to all of your rooms so they're well-lit, especially areas where you work and cook. You may also want to put in motion-sensor lights.

Hallways and Stairs

Find ways to save your energy when you move to another area of your home:

  • Put handrails on both sides of the stairs.
  • Get a stair lift if you can't get up and down stairs on your own.
  • Install night lights with motion sensors along stairs, hallways, and throughout your home.
  • Paint the edges of the steps so they're easier to spot.
  • Inside doorways should be at least 32 inches wide. If changing the hinges doesn't work, take off the door entirely and replace it with curtains.

Bedroom

A gadget called an environmental control unit (ECU) lets you adjust the heat or air-conditioning with the push of a button. You can also use it to turn on the lights and open and close drapes.

Some other equipment to consider:

  • A bed that raises and lowers by pushing a button
  • Button and zipper hooks, a long-handle shoehorn, and sock aids to help you put on and fasten clothing
  • A bedside commode so you don't have to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night

Place your bed 4 1/2 feet away from the walls on each side so it's easier to make the bed and change the sheets.

Bathroom

Some simple adjustments can make washing up easier and safer. Look for combs and toothbrushes with easy-grip handles. Also install equipment such as:

  • Lever faucet handles that are simple to turn
  • Tub bench or shower chair so you can sit while you wash
  • Handheld shower head that reaches down to you
  • Nonskid surfaces in the shower or tub to prevent falls
  • Grab bars near the toilet and shower

Consider making these changes to your toilet:

  • A raised or adjustable toilet seat
  • A bidet toilet attachment to help you get clean after you use the toilet
  • A "Bottom Buddy" tool that holds the toilet paper while you wipe and releases it into the toilet after you finish

If you're remodeling, think about adding a wheelchair-accessible shower with curtains so you don't have to step over the tub edge. And look into getting a wall-mounted sink. Because there's extra space below, you can roll up closer in a wheelchair.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Multiple Sclerosis: Preventing Falls."

Multiple Sclerosis Alliance of Southern Colorado: "Environmental Adaptation Considerations."

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: "The Accessible Home: 10 Tips for Coming and Going."

Multiple Sclerosis Society UK: "Home Adaptations."

National MS Society: "Assistance for Adaptive Equipment," "At Home with MS: Adapting Your Environment," "Increasing Accessibility," "Affordable Accessible Housing: A Guide for People with MS," "MS Symptoms."

MS Focus Magazine: "The Accessible Home: 10 Tips for Coming and Going."

The American Occupational Therapy Association: "Home Modifications Promote Independent Living."

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