How Accepting Help with MS Can Create More Freedom, Not Less

Patient Expert

It would not be going too far to say that I am a vocal advocate for the use of assistive mobility devices. I use a cane most days, and when I’m not using a stick to help me get around it’s because I’ve graduated to a Lofstrand (forearm) crutch or even to a walker/rollator. Assistive mobility devices are just a part of my days with MS.

When I hear of someone resisting the use of such aids because they don’t want to become dependent on such things (and I have even read of people advocating for others with MS "not to give in to a cane") I have to remember my own struggle to get to the level of acceptance I now have for the devices. I wasn’t always so willing, you see.

Eventually I came to understand that I was limiting myself by not using something to help me get around. By not giving into the need for help, I was staying closer to home, avoiding social situations and getting less physical exercise. By not "giving in" to my need for an aid, I was actually giving in to multiple sclerosis.

I figure that I waited about 30 percent beyond the point where I needed the help before I realized how much more I could do (not how much less) when I used my stick. The same is coming into focus for me when it comes to accessing help around the house. I suspect that I am not alone in my resistance to the concept of "home assistance." But the more I relate it to my coming to terms with using a walking aid, the closer I get to acceptance.

First, just like when I wasn’t using a cane but rather furniture walking, wall walking, and otherwise using non-traditional walking aids, I’m already using assistance in the home without thinking about it.

We have a few people who come around regularly to keep up on the household chores which can a) take me far longer now that I have MS, b) be a little bit dangerous with my balance and fine motor skills issues, and c) would deplete my already limited energy reserves in a battle of diminishing returns.

Perhaps it’s because people like our housekeeper, the man who cuts the lawn, the accountant we chartered to file our taxes, and the local handyman we use for the occasional odd job are also assistance that our neighbors might use, I don’t think of them as assistance. The fact is that we use them because I have MS. Perhaps if I thought about that for a while, then I might be more willing to accept that I already use (dare I say, require) help around the house.

This realization has opened my eyes to the level of change that I’ve made in my life because I don’t accept help.

I don’t require assistance dressing myself, but I don’t wear shirts which require buttoning very often any more. And if I do, my wife Caryn has to help. As to wearing a necktie … forget about it.

I don’t require assistance with meals, but I must say that what I do cook is a vastly stripped-down version of what might have come from the professional kitchens I ran. And as often as not a meal might be pre-washed salad greens with a simply cooked protein atop.

I don’t require assistance to keep my flower and veg patches tidy and weeded, but those patches are a small fraction of the gardens I once tended, and they are situated so that I can do the job while seated and almost always during the shady part of the day.

The more I look at the things for which I do not need assistance around the house, the more I see that I have adapted my involvement and my expectations downward. I do less around for lack of ability and to preserve what energy I do have in my stamina checkbook to spend on things I find most important in life.

Looking at it that way may lead me to accepting more help around the house so that I can still garner pleasure from the parts of life I find most important. Wishing you and your family the best of health, Trevis

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