Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, that is, the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. Common symptoms include loss of balance, problems moving arms or legs, muscle spasms, extreme fatigue as well as numbness or abnormal sensation in any area. Moving around can be a major challenge for people with MS, especially in homes with stairs, and home access solutions like stair lifts, ramps and elevators can help. In addition, making certain safety adjustments can help patients with MS move around their home safely and easily.
· Prepare the ground — People with MS often report problems with balance and vision deterioration, which can make moving around a problem. Remove items that cause ground clutter such as throw rugs, toys, shoes, baskets in walkways as they can create trouble for unsteady walkers with multiple sclerosis resulting in tripping hazards. Make sure there is ample open space and pathways are clear to allow for easy access from one room to another.
· Prepare for the wheelchair — Make your home wheelchair accessible by widening passageways and adding a ramp to your entrance. Doorways and hallways should possess a clearing width of at least 32–36 inches. The wheelchair turning radius should be — 60 by 60 inches for a 180-degree turn.
· Keyless entry lock: There is no need to fumble with locks. A keyless entry lock and electric door opener will open the door at the touch of a keypad or remote control.
· Hallways and stairs — Make sure the stairs have a non-slip surface and are well-lit, preferably with warm colors as people with MS suffer vision problems. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons makes the following recommendations for trip-proofing stair cases –
>> Install a stair chair lift if you have difficulty getting up and down the stairs
>> Install handrails on both sides of the staircase
>> Put motion-sensing lights along stairs and hallways
>> Use a non-skid surface on wooden stairs
>> It is preferable to use light-colored carpeting, avoid thick or shag carpets and check rugs for snags and holes
· Upgrade the bathroom — Handicap accessible bathroom is important for home safety as most falls and injuries occur in the bathroom. Bathrooms should be equipped with walk-in bathtubs, raised toilet seat, grab bars, barrier free shower kits and using non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors. The toilet seat should be raised 17 to 19 inches to best suit the needs of a person living with multiple sclerosis.
· The safety needs of people with MS usually change over time. An annual home safety check can help them avoid potential dangers that could threaten their safety and independence.
According to a study published in 2014 in the Journal PLoS One, people with MS are twice as likely to fall accidentally as those who don’t have the disease. Home safety is an important concern for people with MS and making these adjustments can improve quality of life for people living with MS.