How to Make Your Home More MS-Friendly

If you’re a member of iConquerMS, you know that we ask you questions about your ability to function at home and your satisfaction with daily activities.  MS can cause problems with mobility and vision, which often makes everyday living a challenge.  Making the right adaptations at home can make it easier to navigate and reduce the risk of falls.  Read on for some ideas that can vastly improve your quality of life, allow you to regain some independence and, hopefully, make life a little easier.

two wooden small toy homes with heart in between
quilt with words that say "keep, recycle, sell. de-clutter, trash, donate"

Declutter – Too many items on countertops, desks, and tables make it harder to find things.  

caution sign that says "tripping hazard"

Get rid of tripping hazards – Keep the floor clear of anything that could make you stumble.  Secure electrical and computer cords out of the way. Do the same with cords for curtains and shades.

a person rolling up a rug

What’s underfoot? – Install thinner carpeting, hardwood or another smooth flooring so it’s easier to move around.  Remove throw rugs.  If a space needs a rug or mat, secure it to the floor. 

grab bar

Grab on! –  Handrails and grab bars are great safety measures, especially in the bathroom.  Keep doors wide open or shut so you don’t grab onto one that may move.

man pushing a chair to a different location

Rearrange furniture – Place your furniture strategically so you can lean on it to help you move around.  Space it so there is ample room to easily maneuver a walker or wheelchair.

chair lift on stairs

Stairs made easier – Have a sturdy banister on each side to hold on to.  Wheelchair ramps are another option.  An electric chair lift can help if there isn’t space for a ramp.

For the bedroom…

An adjustable base bed can make it easier to get in and out of bed.  A bedside commode may be helpful to avoid having to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Adjust the heat or air-conditioning with the push of a button with an environmental control unit (ECU).  You can also use it to turn on the lights and open and close drapes. Button hooks and zipper pulls or a long-handled shoehorn can make getting dressed easier. 

light switch

Replace light switches – Rocker-style light switches don’t require as much hand strength to turn them on and off.  Touch lamps, motion- or voice-activated lights and timers may also be helpful.

cartoon of person reaching different areas labeled primary, secondary, etc.

Get in the zone – Put the things you use often within easy reach.  Use storage carts, hooks, hanging baskets or pegboards to keep things organized and handy.

desk work center

Set up work centers – Create spaces where you can sit to do activities. Stock them with everything you need for that task.

For a safer, more efficient kitchen…

Rearrange your cabinets so that the things you use most frequently are at eye level.  If you have heavy dishes or baking sheets, stand them on end instead of stacking them.  Keep heavy pots and pans on the counter instead of in a cabinet.  That way you can slide them into place rather than lift.  Use loop pulls on drawers and cabinets.  Take advantage of stools or chairs that are high enough to let you sit at your countertop while you cook or use the sink.  Gather everything you need to prepare a meal ahead of time and use a cart to roll your supplies where you want them. 

A number of kitchen aids make preparing meals easier and safer, such as a grabber to help you reach items on high shelves, an electric can opener, jar openers, utensils with easy-grip handles, a food processer or rocker knives
to help cut food with less effort. Get nonskid mats for counters so your bowls and cutting board won’t slide around.

If you’re in a wheelchair, lowering a countertop makes it more accessible.  Removing cabinets from below the sink permits a wheelchair to slide underneath.  Moving the faucet to the side of the sink makes it easier to reach and use.  

door knob

We can handle this! – Switch out round knobs for lever-style handles.  Placing rubber grips over existing doorknobs can also help.  These same strategies can be used for water faucet handles, too.

two doorways with one that is wider

Widen doorways – Simpler options include removing the door entirely, installing pocket doors that slide inside the walls, or reversing doors to provide more space in a small room.

color squares emphasizing contrasting colors

High Contrast Colors

Use contrasting colors – Dark and light colors when paired together make things easy to see.  Mark the edges of steps and door frames with paint or tape to make them more visible.

blinds showing sun shining through

Minimize Glare and Low Light – Install blinds or sheer curtains to block out incoming sunlight that causes glare.  Replace fluorescent bulbs with incandescent ones.  Use night lights to illuminate walking paths at night.

hands holding velcro

Rely on Velcro – Use it to fasten clothing, keep seat cushions from sliding, hang a cane on the wall, or secure the remote so it doesn’t get lost.  

chair that helps lifts a person up

Rise up – Raising the furniture can make it much easier to get up.  Lift chairs are a popular option.  Furniture risers can be used for chairs and other furniture, too.

For the bathroom…

Install a raised toilet seat to make getting up and down from the toilet easier.  Use a tub bench or shower chair so you can sit while you wash and a handheld shower head that reaches down to you.  For extra fall prevention, put a nonskid mat inside the tub.

Put everyday hygiene supplies in a basket on a low, easily-accessible shelf.  Choose pumps and squeeze bottles instead of bottles with screw tops.  Use combs and toothbrushes with easy-grip handles. A long-handled sponge can make it easier to reach less accessible areas of your body.  Roll up towels and store them next to the tub for easy access. 

For those in a wheelchair, wall-mounted sinks are more accessible because they have extra space below.  Removing cabinet doors also makes the sink and items below it easier to reach. 

remote control

Go remote – Remote controls allow you to manage all sorts of gadgets without walking from room to room.  Smart home systems can connect all of your electronic devices to your smartphone or tablet.

small dog with cucumbers over their eyes relaxing

Keep relaxation in mind – Stress can trigger or make MS symptoms worse.  To relieve tension, try using scents you like, replace an uncomfortable sofa, or have humorous books or movies on hand.

If you’re having trouble functioning at home, it’s important to consult with your healthcare team before making any significant home modifications.  An occupational therapist can address your needs, functional status, interests and goals to make your home as safe and accessible as possible.  Many provide these services on an in-home basis.  He or she will also help identify and address any potential hazards that may exist.  The National MS Society website has a useful tool to help find these types of providers and other important resources for people with MS.

house with stethoscope on it