You may have made all sorts of new year's resolutions in the past that involved doing things that are pretty difficult, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or exercising more. I want to encourage you to do something that will actually make your life easier.
Therefore, I would like each of you to make a list of how accomplishing everyday tasks in your life has become a little more challenging. For instance, do you find that:
- You are increasingly holding onto walls and furniture to walk without falling?
- You will leave a parking lot if you cannot find a parking place close to the entrance?
- You wish it were a little easier to get in and out of the bathtub or off the toilet?
- Consider getting a cane if you are having balance issues or are unsteady on your feet. Many people who get a cane or walker say that they wish they had done it sooner. If you think you are not ready yet, go ahead and get one for hard days or "just in case." Ask your MS doctor to refer you to a physical therapist who can help you get a cane that fits you and teach you how to use it properly. (Read more: When should I get a cane if I have multiple sclerosis? And, Adaptive Equipment, Emotional Adjustment.)
- Get a disabled parking placard (aka "handicapped tag") for your car. Having access to those parking places closest to the entrance of a store or office building can really make a huge difference (especially on a hot day) by allowing you to conserve energy or get out of the heat. Your doctor should have all the forms that you need and will be able to help you fill them out (you may also need him or her to write a prescription for the placard). Again, you may not need to use it often, but it is wonderful to have "just in case." (Read more: Get a handicapped parking placard.)
- Bathrooms can be dangerous places, with slippery hard surfaces that are unforgiving if you fall. It can also just be annoying to need help to do personal things like use the toilet or take a bath. An occupational therapist can visit your home and help with things like installing "grab bars" next to the toilet or bathtub/shower. Your MS doctor can give you the necessary referral to an occupational therapist. (Read more: Make Your Bathroom Safer and Easier to Use, and Occupational Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis.)