Home Improvements For Accessibility

Hope teamed with pragmatism is our formula for success in living with MS as a family.

Patti had to live focused on hope. I had to focus on anticipating and adapting to the environment.

When the roof caves in you do not want to be scrambling from scratch to adapt. Most homeowners are going to remodel anyway so instead of thinking of a project for resale value think accessibility.

Little steps you can take

Take little steps some will likely not even be noticed.

Replace towel bars in bathrooms with grab bars. They will look basically the same BUT if you need to grab it for support or to pull yourself back up, it will hold.

If your house is more than one floor in height put a grab rail on the side of the stairs opposite the balustrade. If your stairwell has no balustrades then install one on each side of the stairs. I’m not talking about chair rail ‘molding’, think wall mounted ballet bar.

Grab bars

Grab bars in tubs or showers are a godsend. Not just for the family member diagnosed with MS but guests or visitors with balance or age challenges. I have come to love them. Don’t get hung up on ADA recommendations of weight to support or suggested height. Install according to the family member with MS.

Chairs in showers can be simple to grand but oh-so-helpful. We kept it simple with just a plastic garden captain’s chair in the shower.

These adaptations basically benefit everyone, and if you need to play the denial game, you can still tell yourself you have not modified your home for accessibility.

Seat belts in cars are legislated whether you think you need to wear one or not. The spouse caregiver has to be the rational one.

Minimizing falls

Living with MS as a family, the person with MS has to factor in consequences. What is gained by a Mom home playing with children who falls down the stairs and knocks herself unconscious?

Grab bars not only reduce falls but minimize consequences if you do.

Nowadays, there are a plethora of options for home commodes, even at Walmart. Raising the height of the seat and/or built-in grab bars make lowering and raising yourself from the commode so much easier and safer. Cleaning yourself after use may be a non-thought to the able-bodied. However, to someone living with the challenges of MS, having those grab bars can improve your wellbeing.

Embracing assistance

Patti had her wall-walking years, refusing any assistive technology. When the wall mounted ballet style bars appeared one day, she embraced them without a squawk.

When you need to move onto ‘wheelchair accessible’ modifications, this will likely take teamwork or a contractor, beginning with wider doors to your home and rooms. Believe it or not, wheelchairs barely fit into most internal rooms if pushed. However, if the person in them wants to self-propel, then they need space on each side for their hands.

Wheels of freedom and independence

Eventually, our home remodeling included a wheelchair accessible shower and a 400 ft boardwalk/deck/ramp. Fortunately, the little steps of adapting for Patti’s safety were already done and she could move onto wheels of freedom and independence.

Editor's note: We are extremely saddened to say that on November 11, 2013, Patrick Leer passed away. Patrick was an essential member of the MultipleSclerosis.net community, providing unique insight and perspective as the primary caregiver to his wife, who has MS. His heartful writing continues to reach many. He is deeply missed.

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