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MS Dream House – What Would it Look Like?

We have been discussing a move into a smaller, more manageable size house, now that our children are adults.  Neither of us want to borrow trouble but we want to be realistic that my Multiple Sclerosis could take an ugly turn with little notice and our home is definitely not meant for anyone with an infirmity.

Tackling the stairs to go to bed is exhausting after a long day.  I often wake feeling like I am young again, only to have a reality check when I actually get up out of bed and stand.  Coming down the stairs to get my morning tea and wake up for the day, I always face the challenge of getting my knees to bend, my eyes to focus, and gravity to not pull me down the steps head first.

Then there is the case of our laundry, which is located in the basement.  This means those baskets of clothes have to travel TWO flights of stairs both directions – down and then up. It is not just a matter of convenience that we need a smaller, one story house – our safety probably will depend on it as well.

I’m not one to feel a deep sentimental attachment to a house, but we’re not particularly motivated to move, either.  We’ve been in this house for 22+ years and the house before this one had us there for 16 years.  We have been married for 40 years and if you do the math you can easily see we don’t feel the urge to go somewhere new.  Maybe that is because we know what a chore it can be to relocate household goods.  Honestly, I don’t know that I have the energy, but I must press on.

Looking for just the right house has been a challenge – we agree we want a ranch, or a rambler if you are from the part of the country that uses that name. From there we part ways.  Hubby wants a basement for its storm shelter use and I say there’s no way in my aging and MS, could I rush to the cellar before a tornado would hit.  I want to downsize but he can’t picture leaving anything behind, so we end up looking at homes with as much square footage  as our present one, but a ranch instead of a two story.  So much for having less house to take care of.

I want a house that is move-in ready.  There are to be no fixer-uppers in my future.  I made that mistake in this home and still live with the hopelessly outdated avocado green kitchen that was popular in the 1970’s.  He’s wanting a bargain in this market, and is willing to overlook a lot of flaws.

Finding a home with all the touches to make it accessible is proving to be more difficult that we could have imagined.  Think about the width of doorways and how much room you need in a wheelchair.  Bathtubs are out of the question, and stepping over the edge of one to get into a shower is the same no-go. Do we go with tall kitchen cabinets because both of us are taller or do we want a shorter kitchen in case I might end up in a wheelchair?  Is it rude during open houses to ask to sit on the toilet to see if it is the right height?  We’re faced with many questions but with MS as we know, we get used to not knowing what our future might hold.

We’re trying to come up with a list of must-haves in our next home, but I’m not particularly creative when thinking it through. What would you suggest we should put on our required list and what items would be nice but not mandatory?

Wishing you well,

Laura

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Comments

  • JHanny
    4 years ago

    I am now beginning to face these problems. I currently live in a 1st floor condo unit. It has 5 stairs in both the front and back which I must tackle daily. It has become more and more difficult. I have begun to look for something more suited to my needs. My ideal house would be a single story house, with wide doorways for my wheelchair to pass through. The halls would also need to be wide enough to accommodate. I would like to see the house be fairly open to provide the extra room I would require. Having large closets to store items such as my powerchair,wheelchair,walker, and cane. Almost an “adjustable” type place in which modifications would be made fairly easily if needed. I am 37yrs of age, I was diagnosed with RRMS about 7 yrs ago. This past spring I have progressed to SPMS and and now needed to make MANY adjustments to both my life and my living quarters. Every day is something different for me, so it is almost impossible for me to try and figure out what may be necessary. Keeping the house at a constant temp year round would be extremely helpful. I live in the Northeast, and The temps are all over the place year round.

  • Beth Backus
    4 years ago

    Laura,

    We have a similar/different problem. I am 65 and have had MS for twenty years; it is secondary progressive. My husband is almost 82, and we live in a two story with full basement 4000+ sq. foot house. We love our house, and it seems that just the two of us and our aged cat have enough stuff to fill it.

    Several years ago, we install motorized chairs on both of our stairs, and I use the one to our upstairs (master bedroom, bath, and large loft) several times a day. After a recent hip replacement surgery pushed us to upgrade the master bath, we now have a no barrier shower instead of the tub, and it has numerous ADA railings to keep me from falling if I lose my balance. I have a stool in the shower to use when I need to sit down, and we also installed a newer, higher toilet.

    Our laundry has always been on the main floor, and we now have a ramp going into our back door from the garage. When I am able, and the weather in our Midwest state permits, I like going up the front steps and into the front door. I either use a scooter, regular wheelchair (pushed by my husband), or a regular walker (no wheels or slides) when I am out and about.

    I use a rollator to navigate around our house, and the one upstairs that I latch onto as soon as I arrive upstairs on the chair, has a seat on it so that I can sit down when needed as I do my make-up, clean my teeth, etc.

    We went through more than ten years of the hell of having my parents in assisted living, and I refuse to do that. I hated the regimen they had to be on for meals, toileting, meds, etc. The meals were barely tolerable (IMO, as we often ate with them), and they had to be more sociable than my father wanted and my mother was able to enjoy. (Even on a cruise to Alaska my hubby and I chose a table for two rather than join a larger group at a bigger table. We enjoyed people watching, but not having to be forced to engage.)

    Bottom line: we want to age in place until the end, if possible. We would rather spend down our investments to add services as needed at home, including 24-hour care if needed at a later date. Right now, I do the laundry, bills, taxes, and any medical paper work; my husband does the grocery shopping, library runs (we refuse to spend money on books, and we both love the feel of actual books in our hands), all yard work except for mulching and heavy snow removal, and the majority of the cooking.

    I probably could not live alone when my husband is gone. I would either pay for full-time help as long as I could, or my three-years-older sister (healthier, fifty pounds lighter, and much more physically fit) and I would pool our resources, sell our individual homes and find something suitable that would enable us to share a home and not kill each other in the process (two bathrooms, two separate sound-proof rooms in which to watch TV, separate bedrooms, etc.)

  • Joe
    4 years ago

    Hi Laura,
    Last summer my wife and I were kind of forced into the type of decision making process you are now facing. We are both in our mid-60’s and my wife’s MS took a very bad turn for the worse. She was in a hospital for eight days and then went into a nursing home for two months. We ended up building a ramp and turning one bedroom into an accessible bathroom using a builder familiar with ADA requirements. The bathroom in large enough to maneuver a wheel chair around plus a standing lift. The shower is a roll in shower and the sink is made so a person in a wheel chair can roll up to it. The door to the bathroom was widened to 36 inches and the door to a bedroom with a hospital bed was widened to about 34 inches. The entranceway from the ramp to the inside has an ADA compliant low threshold door so we can roll the wheel chair into the house without having a raised threshold. We also had to remove a corner in the hallway from the living room the the bathroom so a wheel chair could make the turn. This was not cheap but we do like our ranch house and it was the fastest way to get her out of the nursing home. The nursing home stopped physical therapy after four weeks so medicare coverage stopped and we were on self pay and remodeling was the fastest option with the least problems. We were very lucky that we already had a ranch. I do the laundry so the basement is not a problem for me. Good luck on whatever you need to do to get into an accessible dwelling.
    Joe

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    Obviously I am not the only one pondering options and trying to make a wise next step. Thanks for making it possible for your wife to come home and for sharing your experiences. best, Laura

  • Laurie
    4 years ago

    Hi Laura,

    My husband and I just moved from our 2 story condo into a single story home. Granted the HOA still covers our yardwork, so there wasn’t an additional burden there. We moved because the 2nd story was just a waste of space for us. I’d been up there 1 time in the last 3 years.

    My biggest concern in the move was the master bathroom. We hired an ADA certified contractor to make it accessible for us. We actually found this resource on the MS website. I didn’t even know there were people who specialized in ADA reconstruction! He even noticed some other items in the house to fix for us.

    Good luck to you in your search! I completely wanted a move in ready home, but sometimes you make the sacrifices 🙂

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    Getting the ADA specialist to assist with a good look makes a lot of sense. Thanks for that idea! -Laura

  • Sonya
    4 years ago

    Hi Laura!
    A great article, & one that is certainly of interest to me, as my husband & I have been toying with this idea for some time. We have actually begun to look at condo’s in our area, thinking this may be our best choice, as the huge acre we now have , is becoming way too much for us.

    I must admit, I have been the bigger holdout. I love this house. We bought it shortly before we married, 20 years ago, & were married here. We are in, what is considered a rural area, but we are within 30 minutes of most everything.There are plenty of animal friends here, one neighbor even has cows & horses! I love drinking my morning coffee ,or tea, on the screened porch, while watching the horses run. Let’s face it…I’m a country girl!

    I had to laugh when reading your article, as my husband seems to have a lot in common with yours! I keep trying to explain to him exactly what downsizing means……will he ever understand???
    Sounds as though you covered all the questions I have been asking when looking at new places. My biggest concern is the tub/shower & the laundry room. Our laundry room is now located in the garage, so there are steps involved. I do want something move-in ready, & a ramp, or no steps, would be nice for those days when my legs & knees don’t want to do what they were made to do.

    I look forward to more comments on your article. I hope there are more; not too many, as my mind will become cluttered, thinking of all the things I may need 😉

    Allow me to take this opportunity to wish you & yours a very blessed & happy Thanksgiving.

    Happy house hunting!
    Sonya

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    Sonya, I know this is going to be a slow process, but one we need to start. I hope it was a good day of giving Thanks for you as well. best, Laura

  • fedupandconfused
    4 years ago

    hi Laura great article and I feel your pain (pardon the pun) as we moved 18 months ago albeit for slightly different reasons. I’d just been made redundant and as my health was failing at that point (mobility issues) we decided to downsize so as not to have a big house and big mortgage and instead for the first time get my health sorted. Little did I know at the time that it would turn out to be MS so the house move was more pertinent than we realised at the time.

    So we searched for a smaller house, preferably one story with small but practical garden area and we pretty much found what we wanted – and on an island!

    The house was geared towards someone with mobility issues and has a ramp at one side of the house which I use when my legs won’t do as they’re told or if my mobility is particularly bad on any day. The shower cubicle has a hand rail for additional grip if my balance is off and the floors are all level to reduce trips and falls when negotiating walk areas. We have a balcony as well as outside washing area and the balcony is handy to be able to hang washing outside without actually going outside on days when negotiating a washing basket plus outside area is not practical. We have a centralised kitchen with all sleeping and toilet /bathroom and living areas based around this area so no where is too far to walk or too spread out to clean. We also had internet connections placed in the living areas for days when I’m housebound and can still connect to the outside world and had a TV point placed in the main lounge area as well as spare bedroom for evenings when sleep is a problem so that I don’t disturb my better half when he needs to get sleep as he’s working the following day.

    I also have a nice size kitchen with space for all the cooking gadgets needed as I can no longer chop so have an electric chopper, and electric mixer etc. Also we have no kitchen wall cabinets they are all base cabinets for easy reach and easy slide draws.

    We are also lucky as my disability permit has allowed me to join a shopping club whereby a volunteer group meets the dissability shoppers once every two weeks and pack our shopping for us at the till and then bring it over to the island in a community van and he delivers it right to our kitchen work bench. So these sorts of facilities are great if you can find a community that provides these volunteer services.

    Good luck with the move Laura. It took us about 10 weeks to empty the packing boxes as I had to take it easy due to fatigue but whilst hard work, 18 months later I can honestly say it’s the best thing we ever did. It turned out to be the right decision as I have now been diagnosed with MS and it is likely to get worse over the years so I am glad we moved when we did before it was too late to really manage the move. No house is 100% perfect but if it ticks most of your boxes go for it.

    Hope this helped and happy house moving! 🙂

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    There aren’t many islands we can move to in Ohio – your ‘find’ sounds fantastic. I know this will be a good thing once it’s done. Thanks for the words of encouragement. -Laura

  • Sonya
    4 years ago

    fedupandconfused,
    Your new place sounds heavenly! Any more like yours available? 😉 I wish you all the best in your new home.

    Sorry about the diagnosis. I know how difficult it is when first finding out….so many questions & worries. May I say this is an excellent place to connect with others, who share the same fight.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, & thanks for the comment. Gave me some things to consider, as we begin the search for a new home.
    Best wishes,
    Sonya

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