If you’re one of the estimated 2.3 million people in the world affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) then you’re aware of how it can impact every part of your daily life.
The good news is that making the right adaptations in your home can make it easier for you to manage your symptoms and follow your usual day-to-day routine.
It’s likely that much of your time is spent in your living room, so you want to make this room as MS friendly as possible.
While the tips below target your living room, many of them can be successfully incorporated into any room of your home.
- Declutter. The fewer objects you have around you, the less energy you need to expend taking care of them. So donate or remove the things you no longer need. Decluttering also leaves your surfaces clear of objects so you can grip them safely to help you balance.
- Rearrange your furniture. Place your couches, armchairs, tables, and dressers strategically so you can lean on them to help you move around. Space them so that there’s ample room to easily maneuver your walker or wheelchair.
- Remove throw rugs. These can slip around and are easy to trip over, so your best option is to remove them.
- Replace light switches. Replacing your light switches with rocker-style switches means you don’t need your hand strength to turn them on and off. Touch lamps, timers, and motion- or voice-activated lightbulbs are also good options.
- Elevate electrical sockets. Raise these to make them easy to reach without needing to bend down.
- Use lever door handles. Round doorknobs can be difficult to grasp. Replacing them with lever handles allows you to more easily knock them open with a fist or elbow.
- Use contrasting colors. Use paint or tape in dark or bright colors to mark the edges of door frames and steps so that they are easier to see. You can also use the same materials to help make switch plates stand out on light-colored walls.
Significant investment updates
- Replace thick carpeting. Install thinner varieties of carpeting, or better yet, hardwood or another smooth flooring so it’s easier to move around.
- Widen doorways. You’ll need to widen a doorway to about 32 inches to fit most walkers or wheelchairs. Since this is a significant investment, you may first want to consider simpler options like removing the door entirely, reversing doors to open outwards so that you have more space in a small room, or installing pocket doors that slide inside the walls.
Changes like setting up work stations with seating and organizing kitchen tools can have a big impact on making meal prep easier.
- Favor eye level. Rearrange your cabinets so that the things you use most frequently are at eye level. This will save you from having to reach up or bend down.
- Store smartly. Instead of stacking heavy dishes or baking sheets, stand them on end.
- Invest in the right equipment. If you have numbness in your fingers, tools like the Verti-Grip knife (which needs mostly downward pressure) or jar openers can make meal preparation much easier. Opt for lightweight pots and pans.
- Use wire inserts or shelves. Fit these into your cabinets and simply slide them out to access your kitchen equipment.
- Purchase a barstool. Instead of standing at the counter to prepare food, sit on a barstool (preferably with a back for support).
Significant investment updates
- Lower counters. Aim for between 28 to 34 inches from the floor for easy access from a sitting position. Figure on 30 inches width for accessible counter workspace.
- Make the sink more accessible. You may be able to remove the cabinet under the sink and leave it open, making the sink wheelchair accessible. Installing the faucet to the side of the sink makes it easier to reach. Make sure that the faucets are levers and not knobs.
- Install an open cooktop. In place of a stove, switch to a cooktop with an open space underneath. Ideally, the burners should be staggered to avoid having to reach across hot burners.
While it’s likely to be a small space, these changes can have a big impact by making self-care and hygiene safer and easier.
- Keep supplies on low shelves or in baskets. Roll up towels and store them next to the tub for easy access.
- Invite a friend or family member for some DIY. With some simple tools you can adjust the height of existing features like towel bars or hooks to make them easier to reach. You may also want to remove cabinet doors to make the sink and items below easier to access.
- Keep your phone accessible. Designating a spot for your phone ensures that it’s available if you need assistance due to a slip or other issue.
- Choose toiletries based on ease of use. Opt for pumps and squeeze bottles instead of bars of soap or bottles with screw tops. A long-handled sponge can make it easier to reach less accessible areas of your body. A handheld shower allows you to easily control the stream of water.
- Invest in a shower chair. Using a plastic shower chair can help you conserve energy by allowing you to sit instead of stand in the shower. A good chair has rubber covers on the legs to prevent it from sliding in the tub or shower.
- Add a raised toilet seat. You can reduce the distance between standing and sitting by raising your toilet seat or placing a commode with arms over the toilet.
- Install a bidet spray. If you’re challenged with decreased dexterity, you can have a handheld bidet spray installed on an existing toilet to ensure optimal cleaning.
Significant investment updates
- Have grab bars installed. Stylish grab bars can be installed in your shower stall, bath tub, and near your toilet to give you extra leverage when you need it. These typically need to be installed by a professional for safety.
- Purchase a transfer tub bench. If you find it challenging to step over the edge of the tub, install a transfer tub bench. Two legs of this bench stand in the tub and two legs stand on the bathroom floor. Start by sitting on the bench with your legs on the floor of the bathroom. Lift one leg at a time into the tub. Once your legs are in the tub, edge over until you are sitting in the tub.
- Consider a roll-in shower. If you use a wheelchair, consider installing a roll-in shower, walk-in tub, or hydraulic lift tub.
Awareness of the options available can help you make the changes that work best for you, your budget, and your home. You might also consider whether there are resources available to help you make these changes.
Some areas offer grants or programs that provide financial assistance for home updates. You may also be able to find low-cost or free items through local organizations or groups.
Choose what’s easiest for you to start with and take it from there to make your space truly feel like home.