Multiple Sclerosis: Mother living in Aged Care
Living With MS: Home Adjustments
If you have multiple sclerosis, your home should be safe, clutter-free, and — of course — comfy. Is it time for an upgrade?
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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As multiple sclerosis progresses, people with the condition gradually lose their ability to balance, maneuver, and get around. Sometimes their vision worsens, and they may eventually need to rely on walkers, scooters, or wheelchairs.
What does this mean for life at home? It may be time to make some renovations — and these modifications are a good place to start.
Clean up!"First and foremost, get rid of any ground clutter," advises Amy McCoy, MPT, a physical therapist at the Bolwell Health Center in Cleveland, Ohio. McCoy specializes in working with people who are living with MS and other neurodegenerative diseases. She lists throw rugs, shoes, and baskets as the kind of items that can create trouble for an unsteady walker with multiple sclerosis, but you can probably look around your home and find many other potential hazards. "The pathway should be clear to allow for easy access from room to room," she says.
Watch the pets.Small animals such as dogs and cats can dart in and out of a room and create a tripping hazard for a person living with MS. If you want to keep your pets, invest in animal training or attach bells to their collars so that they can be heard from a distance. Pet accessories such as toys, balls, and bowls can also become tripping hazards, so keep them out of the way.
Fall-proof your stairs."Stairways should be well lit, possibly with warm colors for the visually impaired," McCoy suggests. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following advice for trip-proofing your stairs:
- Put light switches at the top and bottom of stairs or use motion-sensing lights around stairways.
- Keep a flashlight in a drawer close to the top and bottom of stairs, in case lights go out.
- Install handrails on both sides of the staircase.
- Remove clutter from steps and stoops.
- Use light-colored carpeting. Avoid thick or shag carpets. Check rugs for snags or holes that could catch a heel or toe.
- Use a non-skid surface on wooden stairs.
- Check floorboards to make sure they are even and secure.
Upgrade the bathroom."Bathrooms should be equipped with a tub seat, raised toilet seat, and grab bars on the walls for the toilet and inside the tub or shower," McCoy says. The toilet seat should be raised 17 to 19 inches to best accommodate a person living with MS.
Make room for wheelchairs.Wheelchairs might require the greatest investment in home renovation. You might have to build a ramp to provide access into and out of the house. Once inside, you might need to widen the passageways considerably. "Doorways and hallways should have a clearing width of at least 32 [inches]— 36 inches is ideal," McCoy advises. The turning radius of a wheelchair used by a person living with MS for a 180-degree turn is 60 by 60 inches. A 90-degree turn requires at least 36 inches.
Additional Resources for People Living With MS
If you need help figuring out how to make your home safer and more comfortable for someone living with MS, consider scheduling an appointment with a physical or occupational therapist who can come to your home and assess your needs. You could also ask the physical therapist for tips and guidance on making your car more user-friendly for folks living with MS.
Your local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society might also be able to offer assistance. Some chapters have lending programs that allow you to borrow adaptive technologies and safety equipment. Of course, they also accept donations, so if you have any items left over that you no longer need, be sure to pass them on.
Video: I'll be living in student accommodation and have MS, what adjustments can be made?
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