Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. In other words, it is a chronic condition that largely affects the brain and spinal cord. It is also frustratingly mysterious, with no clear cause or cure. Though its symptoms and their severity vary case by case, MS patients have at least one thing in common: the challenge it can become to cope.
If and when multiple sclerosis reaches a stage where it affects many aspects of life, remember: it does not have to define it. Here are some tips for alleviating some of the daily struggles of MS:
Adapt Your Home
Multiple sclerosis influences the ability to move and perform everyday activities. Having assistive devices installed throughout the home – like grab bars, electric mattresses, and stair lifts – can make moving and balancing easier, and help maintain a sense of independence. It is especially practical to make bathrooms and living areas accessible. Start small, with grab bars installed in the washroom and contemplate the tasks that are hard for you to do. If you only have trouble standing in the bathroom, a grab bar or shower seat might do the trick. As you move forward think about the household items that put the most stress on your body, chances are there is an adaptation that can be made for you.
Change Your Diet
As with any condition or any lifestyle, diet is always has a large impact on a healthy lifestyle. Make sure to keep up a balanced diet, you want every other part of your body working like a well oiled machine. So make sure to watch your fat intake and to eat foods with a high fiber content. Although a healthy diet may not have a direct impact on MS itself, it will have a positive impact on the rest of your body. This will allow you to continue to exercise and life a happy lifestyle.
Adapt Your Everyday Tools
In addition to adapting the home, there are versions of everyday tools that are designed to help with otherwise simple tasks. Built-up handles on utensils, toothbrushes, and other handheld tools make gripping them manageable. A pillbox is handy for remembering when to take medication. There are many assistive tools out there for managing MS.
Adaptive clothing utilizes special closures and other features to aid in both independent and assisted dressing. Depending on your symptoms, different clothing adaptations might be more useful to you. If you are still dressing independently, some adaptations could be magnetic shirts, replacing any cumbersome buttons or elastic waist pants, so you not longer have to worry about buttons or zippers. Open side pants replace zippers and buttons with two adjustable fastenings on both sides of the pant.
If you are wheelchair bound, try looking into open back clothing. This consists of adaptive tops and adaptive pants. The open back design for pants is designed so the wearer can be dressed from a seated or reclined position. Open back tops open up completely eliminating the struggle of getting arms and head through small holes. These are helpful if you have a caregiver helping you with your morning and nighttime routine.
Exercise, when done safely, can ease symptoms like muscle spasms, fatigue, tremors, and joint stiffness. However, it is important that those with multiple sclerosis do not overdo a workout, which can make symptoms worse. Yoga, tai chi, and water aerobics are popular for MS patients, as they focus on flexibility over building muscle. Be sure to check with your doctor to learn the types of exercise that are best for you.
When you consult your doctor, see if there are any daily exercises that you can be doing for the days that you just aren’t up to going and taking a class. A small bit of activity can go a long way!
Sharpen Your Mind
Just like it is important to keep your body in its best shape, looking after multiple sclerosis’s effect on the brain plays a significant role in overall health. Tangible tools like cameras, calendars, and post-it notes support fuzzy memory; while positive thinking can be achieved with counseling and support groups.
Seek a Caregiver
It is worthy to note that while MS patients can remain independent for many years, the disease or effects of age can progress to a point where an individual needs assisted care. A family caregiver, hired help, and assisted living communities are all viable options to look into. Make sure to consult your family and friends as well, visits from family and friends are a great way to brighten moods! So keep a balance of care giving time and friends and family time.
There is still much research to be done to learn MS’s cause and cure. Find out what you can do to help through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.