Gadgets That Make My MS Life Easier
During a recent surprise heat wave (you know, one of those wacky weather moments where it goes from 55 one day to 82 the next, that we seem to be experiencing more and more these days), my symptoms skyrocketed to the surface thanks to my heat intolerance. As I tried to resist turning on that crucial air conditioning, I donned a hat that is filled with ice packs and it helped me survive a few hours before I relented and finally put on the AC. That got me thinking how helpful the hat is and I began considering some of the other gadgets I use to make my life with MS a bit easier. So here are a few of the things I use on a regular basis that I find beneficial when navigating my MS symptoms.
As always, everyone with MS can experience symptoms differently, so some of these things work well for me, but may or may not for you. Life with Multiple Sclerosis is all about learning to adapt and figure out what works for your body. Doesn’t hurt to have some suggestions on what to try though!
I’ll start with the item that made me think of this topic. I am extremely lucky to not suffer from chronic migraines, but these hats are essentially just hats that contain ice packs. I found one on Amazon that was inexpensive and even came with an extra pair of swappable ice packs in it. While those with migraines turn to these hats to apply cold to their head in order to dull their pain, I’ve found that applying cold in these same spots on the head is a fantastic way to help me cool down quickly. When I’m overheated, this is now the first thing I reach for!
I drink a lot of water (seriously, my thirst seemingly knows no bounds), however, MS gives me some issues when it comes to drinking. I do occasionally have some swallowing issues that have led me to aspirate and end up hospitalized with pneumonia because of it. This has led me to focus on the cups that I use, with the size of the mouth and weight of the cup being important to me. I also suffer from spasms, tremors, and suddenly weak hands which means I tend to drop and spill cups a lot. When I am out, I’ll often ask for a disposable plastic cup when available (yep, even at a brewery where it can be taboo), however, at home, I’ve turned to a sturdy but lightweight water bottle that has an opening slightly smaller than a normal drinking glass but larger than many other bottles. This particular one works well for me and took some experimenting to find the right one. It has helped with my swallowing issues and has also allowed me to spill less frequently and break fewer glasses.
I’ve talked before about my difficulties with driving and transportation, those issues don’t only limit my social interaction, but my ability to do basic shopping as well. Even if I can get out of the house to shop, it’s definitely going to wear me out. Who wants to spend their precious and short good moments tending to something like shopping? I certainly don’t. You can’t get everything on Amazon, but you can get a lot. Newer programs of theirs like Prime Pantry and Prime Wardrobe have been especially helpful for me. Most items arrive in one to two days and get delivered right to my door. I’ve even been able to set up subscriptions for some items that I might normally forget. Some people try to find ways to vilify Amazon, but to a disabled person like me, it’s a lifesaver! (and yes, most of the items I discuss here were purchased on Amazon)
I’ve mentioned before how noises can cause me issues with sensory overload. If I’m having a bad day, that can every bit be an issue at home, even with my trusted dog. When I’m having a rough sensory day, I turn to a pair of headphones I found. They aren’t completely noise-canceling (I think they were meant for shooting), so I can still be aware of what’s going on, however, the sounds are lessened by a large degree. I love these things.
Rubber jar opener
I might be a big strong guy, but that doesn’t matter when my symptoms are aroused. Being able to open jars, bottles, etc can seem impossible. So I turn to that staple of kitchens, a circular rubber jar opener.
I’ve talked at length about this, but I thought I’d mention it again because I’m still using it and it’s been wonderful. It’s certainly not for everyone though. My previous piece on weighted blankets can be found here.
I do not always use my cane, even though I’m supposed to (I guess this is a case of “do I say, not as I do”). When I do, I use a cane that I’ve picked out and customized a bit (and I think making a cane your own is such a critical thing to be accepting of it and really using it well). The most important part of my customization is a strap that connects the cane to my wrist. This is a common practice so you can let your hand drop and not lose it. My strap is special to me though, because it is the same one that my grandfather, who also suffered from MS, used on his cane. I sometimes feel pretty down when forced to use my cane, having that link to my grandfather helps me raise my head a little higher and carry on. While not everyone will have something like that, I think customizing your mobility aids is an important aspect to using them.
Cell phones are a huge part of many people’s lives, and mine is no exception. I find that my choice of one was very much determined by my MS symptoms. As with my drinking glass problem, dropping my phone is a constant issue for me, as is gripping it. I have been a long time user of phone cases made by the company OtterBox. They make some of the strongest and drop proof cases around. For someone like me, who drops his phone several times a day, they are worth every penny. I actually find the added bulk of their protective cases also help me hold my phone more easily.
Those are a few items/services that I rely on, on a daily basis, when living with Multiple Sclerosis. I’m sure at some point, I’ll even have a second part to this because there are so many things out there that can be helpful. I would love to hear what other people use too. If you have a product, service, gadget, or whatever that makes your life with MS a bit easier, please be so kind as to tell us all about it in the comments!
Thanks so much for reading and as always, feel free to share!
Do you have a fear of needles and take medication that requires injection?