I have purchased a variety of items that I thought would make tasks easier for me and my MS symptoms. Some have worked well and some have not. Many were recommended based on my symptoms, some were brainstormed, and some I stumbled upon. My issues are mobility, weak dominant hand/arm, balance and stamina. I have made dietary changes and exercise to help manage and diminish the effects as much as possible. However, I find using different items can help me keep doing certain tasks and activities. Based on the labels used by physical therapists, occupational therapists, and even in product descriptions, I search with the words ‘senior’, ‘stroke’, ‘arthritis’, and ‘seated’ as well as ‘multiple sclerosis’.
I am breaking my list of tried products into categories and blog posts. The first in the series covered kitchen tools and tips. The second post in the series covered general daily tools and tips. This post will cover Environment.
Let’s face it. When you have a chronic condition that affects your mobility and/or your typical state based on the current air conditions (temperature and humidity) it is in your best interest to pay very close attention to your environment. This will include being prepared for changes too.
Cooling scarves. I have a love/hate relationship with cooling scarves. My first cooling scarf was a freebie from a medicine company. It was smaller than a bandanna. It was too small to help much. I then bought some gaiter style ones. You could soak them with any temperature water, wring them out, snap them to activate, and then put them on for a couple hours of cool relief. The catch, my hate part, was they would soak your top. It was worth the soaking for outdoor activities but not for going between indoor events like teacher conferences or concerts. 3 out of 5 Gladiator Shields .
Cooling hat. This I enjoyed until a kid borrowed and lost it. It was a Mission brand baseball cap style hat. It was a soak, wring out, snap to activate type cooling. Yes, your head will get wet. You will also stay cool. This is perfect for outdoor activities in the sun, heat, and humidity. 4.5 out of 5 Gladiator Shields .
Cooling wristbands. This is a nice compromise between the scarves and the hat. I have the Mission brand of the soak, wring, and snap type. These have allowed me to go to doctor appointments, errands, and outings. Yes, they will soak anything they touch, but it is easier to avoid this with wristbands than scarves and hats. 5 out of 5 Gladiator Shields .
Safety bars. It goes without saying that when you have balance and gait issues grab bars in and around showers are a good thing. Railings at steps are equally helpful. If you are not sure where to put grab bar(s) and what size grab bar(s) you need, there are several suction seals, temporary grab bars available to purchase. Be careful, the suction seals are *temporary* and may give way. They also will not stick on regular walls or across grout lines. Grab bars come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and color finishes. Gladiator Tip.
Ramps. These are in the love/hate category for me too, I would rather pull myself up and down a few steps than be dragged down a ramp by a rollator. However, with a rollator you need a ramp to get around entrance steps and driveways separated from roads with gutters. The tricky part is finding the right kind and size of ramp for the step drop. A metal ramp to go out a door with a platform landing and the right ramp length for a 6 inch drop with safety rails costs around $2000 in my area in 2020. To deal with that driveway gutter, I found a couple options for a ‘fixed’ full length gutter/drain ramp around $600. I tried a few ‘portable’ ramp options that were mostly meant for hand carts. The prices were much better, but they were heavy, moved during use, and did not really work for either a rollator nor a wheelchair. Gladiator Caution.
Adjustable step. These were originally intended for step aerobics. This is a wide, deep plastic step about 4 inches tall with two sets of platform risers that are 2 inches tall each. I originally used the 4 inch step to help get into my tall bed when I broke my arm. Now I use the same single step to help get in and out of my walk in shower with a 5 inch threshold. The step works as a platform. It greatly reduces the up and over effort needed to exit the shower. My step has grooves to help prevent slipping with bare wet feet. I have seen smooth non slip surfaces as well. My dream is to have a zero height threshold, roll in shower. I would even settle for a no bottom track shower door. Gladiator Tip.
Remotes and Apps. I am a huge fan of remotes and apps to control lights, fans, appliances, and more. Basically, if a household item has a remote or clicker, check if it has an app. You may need to weigh the potential hacking path to your home’s network versus the benefits of app control. Sometimes having a remote is enough. Gladiator Tip.
Power chair. This assistive device is both a mobility aid and an environment aid. As a mobility aid it allows me to go into larger places for longer amounts of time even when I am having a bad day or even an extra weak spell. I actually bought it to keep from being left stuck in a section of a store. As an environment aid, the power chair can handle many surfaces where it would be difficult for me to walk. Think slippery pool decks, paths in woods, uneven concrete sidewalks, shallow rock paths, grassy areas, and brick paths. I have the Golden Technologies LiteRider Envy. I had to replace the factory batteries after about 9 months. Fully charged, fully functioning batteries should run 8 hours/15 miles. If you get stuck somewhere on low batteries, you just need a regular outlet if you have your charger cable. Really bumpy surfaces will give you a core workout as you balance to stay in the chair. The power chair increases my experiences but at 75 pounds requires help to get in and out of my car and dealing with driveway gutter curbs. Overall, I give the Golden Technologies LiteRider Envy 3.5 out of 5 Gladiator Shields.
Wheelchair lift in/on a vehicle. When I added a power chair to my assistive device inventory I had recently purchased a mid-size SUV with 360 degree camera/object sensors. A typical hang off the back platform lift would block the rear camera and sensor. So, I went with a lift arm that would pick up and move the power chair into the rear cargo area. I was told it was a two finger swing assist while using a remote control for the lift arm. A two finger operation for a strong adult with good balance equates to me deflecting a swinging and spinning 75 pound chair while trying to not get knocked down or crushed against the car and then trying to shove the chair into just the right spot so I can close the rear hatch. I need one of my 3 strong kids or another adult with me to deal with the chair loading/unloading. It turns out to be an easy one hand lift/swing assist and a good hard shove into the right spot for my kids. I really need a bigger car, a non-camera/sensor blocking external platform, or a smaller/lighter power chair for me to maneuver. None of these are in the cards anytime soon. A lift/swing arm for a mid-size SUV to handle a power chair gets a 2.5 out of 5 Gladiator Shields as it increased my dependence instead of my independence.
What are some of your helpful environment items? Have you tried any that you recommend others avoid or watch for certain issues? If so, please share in the comments. Be on the lookout for Dressing items and tips.