Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive and potentially disabling condition that affects the central nervous system, which involves the brain and spinal cord. MS is a type of autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks myelin, a fatty protective coating around nerve fibers.
This leads to inflammation and nerve damage, resulting in symptoms like:
- chronic fatigue
- vision problems
- speech and cognitive problems
According to the National MS Society, about 1 million adults in the United States live with MS. Roughly 85 percent of people with MS have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) at first. This is a type of MS in which individuals experience periods of relapses followed by periods of remission.
Living with RRMS can present some long-term challenges, including problems with mobility. Several resources are available to help you cope with this disease.
From making your home more accessible to improving your daily life, here’s what you need to know about living with RRMS.
Adapting your home to improve accessibility is important to maintaining your independence. RRMS can make everyday tasks difficult, like climbing stairs, using the bathroom, and walking. During relapses, these tasks can be particularly troublesome.
Modifications, on the other hand, allow you to move around easier. Plus, they create a safer environment and lower your risk of injury.
Home modifications vary according to your needs, but may include:
- widening your doorway
- raising your toilet seats
- installing grab bars near your shower, bathtub, and toilet
- lowering the height of counters
- creating space underneath counters in the kitchen and bathrooms
- lowering light switches and the thermostat
- replacing carpet with hard floors
Installing a wheelchair or scooter ramp may also helpful if you need to use a mobility aid. When you’re having a bad day due to inflammation or fatigue, mobility aids can help you get in and out of the house easily and more frequently.
Contact a local home mobility solutions company in your area to discuss options and pricing. Ramps vary in size and designs. Choose between semi-permanent structures and foldable, lightweight ones. You can even add a mobility scooter lift to your vehicle.
If you’re looking for an accessible home, programs like Home Access can connect you with a realtor who can find suitable listings for you.
Or, you can use a program like Barrier Free Homes. This organization has information on accessible apartments and homes for sale. You can view listings of homes, townhomes, and apartments in your area, which include photographs, descriptions, and more. With an accessible home, you can move in and make few or no modifications.
Making modifications to a home or vehicle can be costly. Some people pay for these updates with funds from a savings account. But another option is to use your home’s equity.
This can include getting a cash-out refinance, which involves refinancing your mortgage loan and then borrowing against your home’s equity. Or, you can use a second mortgage like a home equity loan (lump sum) or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). If tapping your equity, make sure you’re able to pay back what you borrow.
If home equity isn’t an option, you might qualify for one of several grants or financial assistance programs available to people with MS. You can search for grants to help with rent, utilities, medication, as well as home and vehicle modifications. To find a program, visit the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
Along with modifying your home, you can work with an occupational therapist to make daily chores easier. As your condition advances, other simple tasks like buttoning your clothes, cooking, writing, and personal care can become more of a challenge.
An occupational therapist can teach you ways to adjust your environment to better fit your needs as well as strategies to accommodate lost functions. You can also learn how to use assistive devices to make self-care activities easier.
These might include hands-free drinking systems, buttonhooks, and eating tools or utensil holders. AbleData is a database for assistive technology solutions that can help you find information on these types of products.
An occupational therapist will first assess your abilities, and then develop a plan that’s unique to your situation. To find an occupational therapist in your area, ask your doctor for a referral. You can also contact the National MS Society at 1-800-344-4867 to locate a therapist with expertise in RRMS.
Working may not pose any problems for you during periods of remission. But during a relapse, working in certain occupations can be challenging.
So that symptoms don’t interfere too much with your productivity, take advantage of assistive technology that can help you perform certain tasks. Programs like Essential Accessibility that you can download right to your computer are helpful when you have difficulty typing, reading, or maneuvering a computer mouse.
Programs vary, but can include tools like voice commands, onscreen keyboards, text-to-speech capabilities, and even a hands-free mouse.
RRMS is an unpredictable disease, and symptoms tend to worsen the longer you live with the condition. Although there’s no cure for MS, there are several resources that can improve the quality of your life and help you maintain your independence. Talk to your doctor to learn more about help that’s available to you.