Adapting to Mobility Issues
Losing your mobility to multiple sclerosis is a challenging aspect of the disease that cannot be reversed. While some people regain their mobility, it is not always the case. MS causes changes in gait, balance, and coordination, leading to physical changes such as muscle atrophy and weakness. Due to the interruption of signals from the brain to the limbs, movement becomes slower or may not happen at all depending on nerve damage severity. In the past, doctors believed exercise was harmful for MS patients until they realized that lack of exercise worsens the condition. Therefore, exercise and movement are now encouraged to maintain function and remind the brain how to use damaged areas.
There is no set timeline for when mobility will be lost, so individuals must take charge and exercise to the best of their abilities. It's important to approach exercise conservatively and not push oneself to exhaustion. If mobility becomes very limited, physical therapists can teach exercises that can be done from a wheelchair or bed. Online videos and virtual exercise classes adapted for chairs are also available.
Modifications to the home can also be helpful. Installing a ramp or lift assists with entering the house, while adjusting the toilet or using a commode can make using the bathroom easier. Grab bars in the bathroom and shower, along with a shower chair, can increase safety. Diagonal grab bars are suggested for those who need assistance in pulling themselves up with their arms instead of placing weight on weak legs. Keeping reachers around the house can assist with reaching high items or picking up dropped objects.
Various products can be purchased online to assist with daily activities and transfers, such as tying shoes, buttoning shirts, and putting on socks. Physical limitations may lead to decreased confidence and self-isolation. Accepting mobility aids and orthotics takes time, and relationships may be affected. Adjustments in the bedroom can help maintain a satisfying sexual life, but not everyone may understand or cope with physical limitations. Some friendships may fade away, but it's important to communicate needs and find supportive individuals. It takes time for both the person with MS and their support network to understand and adjust to the changes caused by the disease.
Living with mobility issues after an MS diagnosis is difficult and can lead to depression, anger, and feelings of hopelessness. Encouraging phrases may not be enough to lift someone out of the emotional hole they may find themselves in. However, learning to adapt and modify activities can be a game-changer. Focusing on what can be done rather than what can't is key. It's important to remember that living with MS is not a bad life, but a different one.