Working Around Physical Limitations

Patient Expert

Some people may think that having Multiple Sclerosis limits my wife, Jennifer, and me. After all, she no longer walks and has used a wheelchair for nine years, and my hands are always numb and I have worked as a writer for more than a decade.

Together we have discovered and continue to realize many ways to work around our physical limitations and experience nearly everything life has to offer. Consider some of these ideas that have helped us overcome our physical limitations.

Knowing what you need

Obviously we all need a cure for MS, but we also need to be realistic about what is going to help us get through today.

Perhaps it's needing a grabber to help you pick up something you dropped on the floor or a scooter to assist you when you need to walk long distances. Or maybe it's something major such as when Jennifer and I got married, we knew we needed an accessible house with ramps and a bathroom with grab bars, a taller toilet and a roll-in shower.

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Relying on all your senses

We learn at a young age that we have five senses: Touch, taste, smell, sound and sight. When MS affects one, look to the others for backup.

For example, MS makes my hands constantly numb, so buttoning my shirt and tying my tie for work isn't something I can do simply by touch. I get dressed in front of the mirror so I can see the top button through the buttonhole.

Jennifer, whose hands lost the dexterity to type, grew tired of using only her pointer finger to write papers and blog. So she looked into and began using a voice-activated typing program.

Accepting help from others

Sometimes it's easy to feel overwhelmed and alone when dealing with the physical challenges MS poses to us. Jennifer often invokes these words of Rachael Ray, "Take the help where you can get it."

Many people - including family members, trained professionals and strangers in the grocery store - are willing to help. You just have to ask.

When Jennifer and I received a grill for our wedding, I knew I didn't have the feeling in my fingers to fidget with the tiny bolts and screws to put it together.

All I needed to do was ask our best friend and my sister, and they assembled in less than an hour. I simply thanked them with a meal of burgers and dogs cooked out on the new gas grill.

And Jennifer never flinches to ask someone in the store to get something off a shelf that's too high for her to reach from her chair. It gets her the item she needs and presents an opportunity for another person to feel good about helping someone else.

And it all starts with knowing what you need.

Combined we've lived with MS for nearly 25 years and we've never felt as though it poses physical limitations. Rather, we feel it's only challenging us.

You can do it, you just have to do it differently. It doesn't mean you won't get frustrated. Remember that everyone - even people who don't have MS - gets frustrated. The fact that we have MS is what makes our accomplishments and victories that much sweeter.