Don't Delay Using Assistive Devices for MS


Andrews, Linda Wasmer

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Practice With Assistive Devices

A tool that makes life easier sounds like a good thing. So why do so many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) put off using assistive devices?

MS can cause several symptoms—such as fatigue, weakness, poor balance, and vision problems—that make it difficult to perform your daily activities. Assistive devices are tools that help you overcome these obstacles. Such devices may be as simple as a cane or as sophisticated as a computer reading system. But all are designed to be empowering in some way.

Yet people with MS often delay using these devices. To some, it is an admission of disability—something they are unwilling to do. They may fear becoming dependent on a piece of equipment. Or they may worry about how others will react. Unfortunately, such thinking may hold them back from doing as much as possible. Here’s why it makes sense to start using helpful tools for MS sooner, not later.

Conserving a Precious Resource

About 80% of people with MS are bothered by fatigue. If you’re in this group, the constant tiredness may make it harder for you to function at home or work. And even a good night’s sleep may not relieve the drained feeling.

When your energy is so limited, it’s particularly important to spend it wisely. If you're tired, it can be difficult to complete the simplest activity. Assistive devices allow you to use less energy on basic tasks, such as walking, getting dressed, cooking meals, and doing household chores. At the same time, assistive devices help preserve your independence. As a result, you have more energy left over for tackling a work project or going out with friends.

Enabling Greater Independence

At Your Appointment

What to Ask Your Doctor About MS

Concerns about becoming dependent on a device are generally unfounded. To the contrary, using adaptive tools helps you stay as independent as possible. You’re able to do many things for yourself that someone else might need to do for you otherwise.

Remember: Deciding to use an assistive device doesn’t have to be an all-or-none choice. For example, many people with MS continue to walk around the house and on short outings. But they use a wheelchair or motorized scooter for longer outings, such as shopping at the mall or walking around a museum. That way, they have more energy for enjoying themselves, and they’re better able to keep up with their companions.

Putting Your Best Self Forward

Some assistive devices, such as a special grip on a pen, are inconspicuous. Others are much more obvious. It would be hard for people not to notice when you use a walker, for instance. In such cases, you might worry about how you’ll be perceived.

It’s true that many people don’t know much about MS or disabilities in general. As a result, some might gawk rudely. Others might go to the other extreme and ignore you completely. If this happens, remind yourself that such behavior is usually driven by ignorance or discomfort rather than intentional unkindness. You can often deflect it by acting confident and perhaps offering a little education.

As it turns out, one of the best ways to project confidence is by using an assistive device when needed. Rather than seeming to struggle, you’ll look like someone who’s taking charge of your life. And you’ll feel that way, too.

Key Takeaways

  • About 80% of people with MS are bothered by fatigue.

  • Using assistive devices helps you stay as independent as possible.

  • Assistive devices allow you to use less energy on basic tasks such as walking and cooking meals.

  • Using an assistive device helps you project confidence.
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 22, 2017

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View Sources

Medical References

  1. Fatigue, National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  2. Gait or Walking Problems: The Basic Facts. National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2010.
  3. Adaptive Equipment, Emotional Adjustment. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  4. Assistive Devices. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  5. Technology Solutions for Cognitive Challenges. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  6. Multiple Sclerosis: Hope Through Research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, December 28, 2011.

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