If your holiday gift list includes someone with multiple sclerosis (MS), be sure to give something you think they’ll enjoy and possibly even benefit from. Symptoms of MS vary greatly from person to person, so think about abilities and disabilities when choosing a gift. There are many wonderful gift items with features that address specific symptoms of MS. That extra attention to detail will ensure that your gift and the thought behind it are appreciated.
People with MS can have difficulty using their arms and hands. Your gift of a hands-free blow dryer will keep on giving, day after day. Some dryers come with a clip that attaches to a wall, or you can purchase a generic blow dryer stand. For the ultimate hands-free dryer, check out the AirPhysics Hands-Free Hair Dryer, which can rest on any firm surface. And if you want to stick with the morning routine theme, add a magnifying mirror to the gift bag. It makes shaving or putting on make-up that much easier.
Chronic illness can strain finances, so many people with MS skimp on added
luxuries. If you think giving a gift certificate is boring, think again—a little pampering goes a long way. Order up a manicure, pedicure, facial, or massage. Better yet, make it a gift certificate with an a la carte menu. For added companionship, make it a spa day for two! If driving is a problem, offer to provide transportation.
Forget about grandma’s clunky cane. There’s a whole new generation of stylish canes out there that are designed to match your outfit or your mood. Check out this funky red paisley cane by FashionableCanes.com. Add some accessories to make your gift as fun as it is practical.
Word to the wise: a cane is a great gift for someone who uses one and enjoys variety, but don’t assume that all people with MS need a cane.
Getting overheated can cause pseudo-exacerbation, a condition in which symptoms temporarily worsen. It’s an unpleasant feeling that can come on suddenly during hot or humid conditions, out in the sun, or during physical activity. Since symptoms generally improve when body temperature returns to normal, a cooling scarf is handy to have around. They are easy to use and can help people with MS enjoy their favorite activities, especially during the warmer months. Most are inexpensive and they come in a variety of colors. Check out this red cotton bandana headband/wristband listed on Amazon.com.
While we’re on the subject of heat-related MS symptoms, sometimes a scarf just can’t cut it. For a more powerful cooling tool, you’ll want a cooling vest. This Cool58 Phase Change Zipper Vest can stay cool for several hours, and it manages to look sporty at the same time. It makes a great gift for the person who enjoys the great outdoors and doesn’t want to miss out on all the fun next summer.
Due to visual disturbances and problems with dexterity, some people with
MS have trouble using computers and other technologies. Screen magnifiers help people with poor vision to see without straining their eyes. Assistive reading software makes use of a computerized voice to read text. Users can also activate voice commands to enter data and format content without using a keyboard or mouse. These devices are especially helpful for those who feel somewhat disconnected from the online world. Not tech savvy? The National MS Society outlines specific technology solutions based on individual needs.
Low vision can cause eye strain, turning reading and writing into a major challenge. Electronic readers like the Amazon Kindle offer users the opportunity to enlarge print size and even change fonts to make reading easier, opening up a whole new world of newspapers, magazines, and books in suitably large print. If dexterity is a problem, so is legible writing, which can be all too frustrating. Products like Pen Again are ergonomically designed to eliminate the need to grip, putting writing action all in the wrist. Sometimes the simplest things are the most appreciated.
Looking for a few little items for a gift bag or stocking? Since grip is a problem for some people with MS, how about a few handy kitchen helpers like easy-to-grip bottle and jar openers? Shop for toothbrushes and hairbrushes and combs with easy-to-hold handles. Add a novelty item with a quick way to beat the heat and stuff that stocking with a mini handheld cooling fan like the Travelon 3-Speed Folding Fan currently listed on Amazon.com.
For the ultimate keep-cool gift, purchase an air conditioner. Home Depot offers this Haier Commercial Cool 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with casters that can be easily moved from room to room—something a person with MS would definitely appreciate. Cooling fans can do the trick, too; have a look at this beautiful Hummingbird Figurine Fan from Deco Breeze. Talk about a conversation piece!
Give the gift of convenience. People who are in a wheelchair can run out of space to carry things. You’ll know that’s the case if your friend is carrying possessions around in a plastic grocery bag hanging off the side of the wheelchair. Accessories like the Wheelchair Day Pac can be hung on wheelchairs or scooters to provide a convenient space to carry extra items. There are a wide variety of colors, materials, and sizes to choose from.
Overwhelming fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS. Often debilitating, fatigue can make it difficult to keep up with everyday chores. Consider the gift of a cleaning, grocery, or meal service. Arrange a once-a-month cleaning service for a year, or a one-time trial session. Set up a convenient grocery delivery through services like Peapod. Check with your local supermarkets to see if they offer delivery services. Services like Magic Kitchen and Healthy Chef Creations deliver premade meals right to your door, which is a big help at the end of a long day.
Because MS is so variable, don’t assume a need that may not exist. Giving a wheelchair pouch to someone who doesn’t use a wheelchair won’t go over well, and a craft kit for someone who can’t manipulate her fingers will only aggravate. Unless there is an expressed interest, skip the MS-related books, too. It’s a good idea to avoid all MS-themed merchandise. Remember: people with MS are about more than MS. You get the idea. Just consider the individual and give from the heart.
Ann Pietrangelo is a freelance writer living with MS. She tells her story in No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis. She recently wrote a second memoir, Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.