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Living Well with Multiple Sclerosis

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Living Well with Multiple Sclerosis
If you have been giving a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from a neurologist you may have many worries, questions or concerns about what it could be like living with this long-term condition.

The truth is you probably have had the symptoms for a long time and have learnt many things that help you manage on a day to day basis. However, there may be some hints, tips or gadgets which could help to relieve your symptoms and live your life as fully as possible.

MS can affect people in a number of ways as there are a few different types. It is a condition that affects your brain and spinal cord. Commonly the range of symptoms can include difficulties with balance and coordination (you may be stumbling or a have fallen), pins and needles or numbness, visuals disturbances, dizziness, incontinence, difficulty swallowing or speaking and concentration difficulties.

It is important to remember that even with a diagnosis of MS you can still take control of the things that are important to you and learn to live as fully, safely and independently as possible.


Getting out and about every day!


Research shows that is it really important for both your mental and physical health to get out and about regardless of your disability – going outside makes us feel better and gives us essential Vitamin D for building stronger muscles and bones. Getting outside even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day can significantly improve your health. Getting outside in the garden could help you do something purposeful whilst you’re outside- whether that’s gardening, hanging out the washing or throwing the ball for the dog.

Of course getting outside safely may mean that you have to use mobility aids such as a rollator or walking stick to compensate for a balance issue and prevent falls but research shows that it’s worth it! This may be particularly the case if you’re in open spaces or unfamiliar places. If you feel that you need more assistance to benefit from the fresh air and get outside you could always invest in a wheelchair or scooter – this may enable you to sit outside with family and friends or simply have a cup of tea in the sunshine. Of course you need to make sure you can get out of the house with it and get it into the car ok and you may need a ramp to help with this.

If you are feeling more adventurous and want to go further afield, in the car or on public transport there are many products which can make this easier for you and your family. Most people with MS can still continue to drive but will need an assessment from the DVLA to see whether you are OK to do so.


Have a soak!

If you have tired muscles and painful joints it can really help to have a soak in a warm bath but getting in and out may be difficult. There are many products which can help from steps to seats through to lifts which raise you up from the bottom of the bath. It is also important to consider the safety of you have a bath – a alarm can provide peace of mind that you can get help if you need it, making sure you don’t lock the door (put an engaged sign on the door if you don’t one the kids running in!), rails on the side of the bath and having slip resistant flooring in the bathroom can all help.

If showering if more your thing you may find standing to shower tiring – there are shower chairs to suit most types and size of cubicle. Reaching toes or you back can be hard in the shower and long handled sponges and other aids may help. It maybe that a walk in level access shower with a wall mounted seat or mobile shower chair is more your thing and they can be so stylish too!


Dressing in style!


Just because you have MS does not mean you lose your sense of style. However, dressing can become more difficult due to weakness, sensory loss and tiredness. To make it easier here are our top tips:

• Sit down to do as many tasks as possible – for example putting on your pants or tights / socks. There are also gadgets to help with these tasks that prevent you having to bend as far.
• Plan in enough time to your routine so you’re not rushing. Getting up 15 minutes early might make all the difference, have a shower in the morning to loosen up stiff muscles before dressing, plan the clothes you’re going to wear the day before so you don’t have to think too much about it.
• Wear slip on shoes or have self-binding laces to prevent having to tie up shoes during the day.
• Bras can be particularly tricky to put on – try a Bra Angel or use a front fastening bra to make it easier.

Doing the chores!


Keeping active and productive is really important for your physical and mental health and unfortunately this includes the household chores! You may feel like these are getting on top of you but there are simple thing you can use or do to make these tasks achievable:

• Sit down wherever possible to preserve you energy – using a perching stool whilst ironing, preparing food or washing up can make a huge difference to your level of tiredness
• Make a timetable of your housework and do a little everyday rather than storing it up for one big clean.
• Accept help if its offered – people and family often feel better when they’re helping you out practically.
• Using long handled brooms, brushes and cleaning aids can prevent you bending and reduce pain.
• A household trolley can be really useful when carry things from room to room.

Technology to help

There are lots of clever gadgets and everyday technology which can help you to remain as safe and active as possible if you have MS – they also can help reassure your family too! As with all technology it is helpful if you can start using them as early as possible to get used to them being part of your life. Technology is changing all the time but some of the helpful ones are listed below:

Memory Aids can be a helpful prompt to take you medication, remember your keys when leaving the house, switch off the taps or remind you of an appointment that day.
Smart doorbells can enable you to talk to and see a person at your front door without opening it, you then decide whether to let them in. There are also doorbells to help you if you struggle to hear the front door.
Simple telephones for keeping in touch. A simple telephone, perhaps with pictures of the person your contacting can make keeping in touch a lot easier and less stressful! However using facetime, skype or other video technology can really help you feel connected to family and friends.
Lifeline Alarm this can link to a monitoring centre if you live alone or do not have family nearby or can link to family and friends. It can give you confidence at home to know that at the touch of a button you’ll be connected to help when you need it.

Cooking and eating!


Eating and drinking are one of life’s pleasures (for most of us!) and should continue to be made as easy and enjoyable as possible. Simple modifications made as early as possible can really make a difference:

• Make it as easy as possible to make a cup of tea or sandwich by grouping things and having things within easy reach. For example, put the cup, teaspoon and tea bags near to the kettle.
Lighting and flooring are really important in the kitchen to prevent accidents and falls.
• There are products that can assist you to continue to cook for yourself and make a hot drink as safely as possible. For example, a Cooking Basket prevents you having to lift a pan of hot water or a Kettle Tipper can enable safe and comfortable pouring of hot water from the kettle into a cup. The hot water dispenser keeps liquid hot for hours and may be a safer way of getting a drink.
• Using a Perching Stool at the kitchen worktop can help preserve energy and prevent stumbles.

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