There’s a lot of joy to be discovered in life with multiple sclerosis (MS), you just need to know where to look. Although you may need to make some adjustments to daily life after diagnosis, living well and finding fulfillment in your work, home, and leisure activities will help you make the most of your time.
MS can provide a new motivation to try things you wouldn’t have thought of in the past. Here are some resources to help you maintain (or even improve) your well-being and quality of life with MS.
MS can be unpredictable, so the best jobs are generally those that offer some flexibility. Working from home is a great option for some. However, if you prefer to be out in the community, it’s important to find ways to meet your needs while at work.
Familiarizing yourself with your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act will help you navigate the process of requesting reasonable accommodations from your current or future employer. Advocating for yourself can play an essential role in maintaining your preferred career choice.
Examples of ways that people with MS have adjusted their work environments include:
The Job Accommodation Network has many more accommodations listed based on the symptoms of MS you want to address, including cognitive impairment, fatigue, or issues with mobility and vision.
For those who have always worked in a traditional full-time job, it can be a little nerve-wracking to switch to a different arrangement, like part-time work, freelancing, or entrepreneurship. If you’re looking for ideas on how to change your career, the U.S. Department of Labor has an interactive skills matcher tool that can give you ideas to best use your talents.
Read more about workplace accommodations for people with MS here.
The changes that come with MS don’t only affect the individual. Families, friends, and neighbors can also be impacted by the MS diagnosis of someone they care about. Encourage your loved ones and caregivers to participate in MS support groups to help them cope and adjust. Your neurologist or other health care provider may be a great resource for information about local groups and support resources. Family and friends can also connect with an MS navigator through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
MS can make it challenging to manage household tasks like landscaping, cleaning, grocery shopping, and home repairs. Communicating with the people around you about what you can and can’t do will help them to be more understanding and empathetic. Health care professionals called occupational therapists can also work with you to find alternative ways to manage daily tasks.
Search for affordable ways to delegate certain tasks. For instance, you could sign up for a grocery delivery service or hire a neighborhood teen to mow your lawn. Some high schools require students to complete a certain number of community service hours. Reach out to your local school district or church communities to see if there’s anyone looking for hours who would be willing to lend a hand.
You may also be able to modify your home to make it more MS-friendly. Government loans and grants are available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for individuals over age 62 or those who meet the income requirements. Additional resources may be offered through your state. Call your local social services department to find out what’s available.
If you’re considering a move, it might make sense to either choose a home that’s one level or rent a condo where indoor and outdoor maintenance is included. Even if your MS symptoms aren’t impacting your home life now, it’s wise to keep accessibility in mind when planning your future.
Many of the hobbies you enjoyed before can still be part of your life after a diagnosis of MS. Assistive devices and a little creativity can help you figure out ways to modify your favorite pastimes.
If you’re an avid gardener, for example, raised beds or an indoor container garden can let you garden while sitting. The same goes for cooking. Investing in some adaptive cooking equipment will make it easier to continue cooking or baking when you want.
Stress is a known trigger for MS flare-ups. Finding leisure-time activities that bring your stress levels down can be a crucial part of your MS care. Low-stress hobbies might include:
Breaking up tiring tasks into segments can make them easier to accomplish. For instance, if you love making cupcakes, try baking them one day and decorating them on the next. It may also help to appreciate the things you’re able to do rather than focusing on your limitations.
Exercise is a critical component of health and wellness for people with MS. Members on MyMSTeam share ideas for staying active. With more exercise programs available online than ever before, it’s easy to find classes tailored to your needs. One member shared that they participate in daily Zoom classes with a group called the Working on Wellness Foundation, which is sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
“All exercises can be done while seated, but when it's safe, instructors offer tips for doing them standing or making them easier. We usually have between 15 and 25 people on our Zoom sessions so you get to chat with other MS-ers before class,” the member said.
Walking is a great option for all exercise levels, but if you have trouble walking, it might be better to consider chair exercises, pilates, swimming, or water aerobics. Ask around at your local YMCA, senior center, or parks and recreation department to learn what programs are available near you.
If you’re not into traditional fitness classes, there are plenty of other ways to stay active. Many people with MS prefer outdoor physical activity. Although everyone’s stamina and abilities are different, one MyMSTeam member likes chopping wood: “I find that trying to just exercise is difficult. For me, it's better if I get exercise by doing some work. I'm going to cut a small load of dry wood for when it starts to get cold, and then I’ll get to split wood all winter. Much easier than trying to do exercises in the house,” they said.
Finding ways to stay active and engaged with work, home life, and hobbies is essential for maintaining good spirits with MS. While you might not be able to do everything in the same way, you might be surprised what new activities you find.
It may also help to connect with others who can provide tips and help direct you to resources from experience. MyMSTeam is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. More than 167,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their tips and advice with others who understand life with multiple sclerosis.
How has MS affected your work or home life? What has helped you navigate the changes? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyMSTeam.