Ongoing management of symptoms caused by MS is essential for maintaining mobility, productivity and involvement. Many MS symptoms can interfere with mobility, including fatigue, spasticity, dizziness and vertigo, pain, numbness, and problems with walking, coordination, and vision, among others. Even depression, which is very common in MS, can interfere with a person’s ability to stay mobile and active.
Talking with the healthcare team about symptoms and the impact of those symptoms on one’s personal goals and priorities, is the starting point for staying active.
From prehistoric animal skins to high-tech athletic shoes, footwear has evolved over thousands of years. For many people, style is the primary consideration. People with MS may have other concerns, such as how symptoms like spasticity, numbness, impaired balance and foot drop may affect walking. Finding the right shoes can make all the difference.
When symptoms of MS such as fatigue, weakness, incoordination, sensory changes in feet or hands, vision problems, or cognitive changes interfere with driving safely, an occupational therapist or certified ADED driving specialist can assess your needs and recommend adaptations and tools (.pdf), and vehicle or van modifications to help keep you driving as long as possible. Your consultation will result in a prescription for the precise equipment you need, and may result in driving lessons with the new equipment.
While used wheelchair vans, SUVs, trucks and cars are ideal options for some, a custom-built mobility vehicle can offer more comprehensive or personalized conversion options. Consult with a mobility equipment dealer, such as the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), to determine which option is best for you.
Mobility aids can help you get where you want to go while conserving energy and preventing falls. Learn how to choose the aid that is right for you and meet the rehabilitation professionals who can assess your needs and recommend the most appropriate aid(s). Mobility aids can:
- Make shopping trips manageable and visits to a museum or zoo a pleasure
- Make a new sport possible or reopen the door to an old favorite. People who use scooters and wheelchairs bowl, fish, ski, and play golf, tennis or basketball.
- Enable you to go places without having to rely on others.
- Prevent falls and show others that the problem is medical—not substance abuse.
Service dogs can be trained to perform an impressive range of tasks, including:
- alerting to sounds
- opening and closing doors
- pulling wheelchairs
- providing balance support
- turning lights on and off and more
Here are some things you should consider if you're thinking about getting a service dog:
- Do you have the funds, time, and support to meet your service dog’s needs?
- Are you able to exercise a dog and clean up after him or her? Do you have a reliable person willing to do this when you can’t—come rain, snow, sleet, hail, summer heat, or an MS flare?
- Do you have or can you raise funds to pay for regular veterinary care, as well as food, accessories, and training aids? If funds are tight, have you researched potential financial resources? (Help may be available.)
- Will you be consistent in working with your service dog and use the training techniques you will learn? Can you be patient if a training routine is not going well, and figure out ways to turn it around?
- Are you willing to make a ten-year, or more, commitment to a dog?
To help you think about whether a service dog may help you improve your mobility, contact:
Assistance Dogs International - Members of ADI educate the public about assistance dogs, advocate for the legal rights of people with disabilities partnered with assistance dogs, and help to set standards and establish guidelines and ethics for the training of these dogs. Provides an online directory of ADI-accredited assistance dog programs throughout the world.
Canine Partners for Life - non-profit organization dedicated to professionally training, providing, and supporting service dogs (including various types of medical alert dogs) and companion dogs, to assist individuals with a wide range of disabilities. CPL’s primary efforts are focused on persons living within a 250-mile radius of Cochranville, PA, but they are able to place dogs with recipients from across the nation. Contact CPL for more information.
Paws With A Cause – non-profit organization which enhances the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities throughout the U.S. through custom-trained assistance dogs. The PAWS online application form is available each year from April 1 to June 30 only.