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"The helpful little things." (overcoming frustration)

"The Helpful Little Things"

I've had multiple sclerosis since 1971 and I've been using a wheelchair for about five years. Although most days are O.K., there are some when my MS has me going in circles. I've found that it's the helpful little things that make those roundtrips more endurable. But sometimes they're not so obvious! For instance, because I have trouble holding things, I hadn't read a book in almost six years -- until I realized all I needed was an oversized pillow on my lap to hold it.

I'm sure everyone who has multiple sclerosis has his or her own discoveries. Here are some ways I've found to beat the little problems that can cause big frustrations!

By the telephone

Instead of scrambling for pencil and paper, I keep a solar calculator, the kind with memory, by the telephone and punch in the phone number I need. Look for one with large buttons. This is handy when someone gives you a number too quickly to write or when calling "Information."

Stop fighting with the pages of the phone book! AT&T will give directory information free of charge if you call your service representative and ask about directory assistance exceptions.

In the kitchen

Getting close enough to the kitchen table to lean over your plate and "eat neat" can make you feel like an acrobat with bad balance. Use a 1/4" thick 10"x14" cutting board as a place mat. By turning it the long way and pulling it forward you can position your plate where you need it. This is my favorite problem solver.

There is almost always a kitchen drawer that you can open and on which you can place the same size cutting board to make a handy extra work surface.

An insulated cup does a great deal more than hold coffee. Since it's light and has a handle, you can hold many different foods in these cups: cottage cheese, apple sauce, spinach, soup, mashed potatoes, etc. You can hold them near and use a spoon more easily when needed.

In the bedroom

Satin sheets make it possible to roll over more easily.

Make getting into bed easier by moving covers out of the way with an "ugly stick." Mine is a two-foot-long, three-quarter-inch diameter dowel. Once you're in bed you can use it to help cover your feet. To make mine even easier to use, I've screwed a cup hook into one end, all the better to keep the covers from slipping (but beware, it's all the worse to get tangled in open-weave blankets). My "ugly stick" has often become an anti-frustration device because I beat the heck out of the mattress with it!

At your side

A cordless phone can be a real life saver on whatever vehicle you may use around the house. I happen to have a three-wheel scooter and I keep a "bar buoy" with a U-shaped clamp to hold the container on the handle-bar stem about a foot off the floor. (A bar buoy is a swiveling container that can be found at a boat store or marina.) The clamp comes from a hardware store. Most electric scooter companies sell the clamp and container together to fit a regular wheelchair or scooter.

I have found that a 1.5 quart base "Foodkeepers" microwave container fits the top of the wire basket perfectly on my brand of three-wheel scooter. It stays put and even leaves extra room. With the container level at the top of the basket I can have small things within easy reach and not have to go fishing over and down deep into the basket. It has taken me five years to find this jewel. Try out different containers for your basket in the store.

Convenient pockets of plain or fancy material can be added to the side of a wire basket without obstructing your view. Velcro, buttons or safety pins can hold the pockets in place.

Pockets made with a pair of thin, cheap wash rags make a perfect solution to the TV or VCR remote control problem. When the wash rags match your easy chairs they even look good. Sew two rags together, and bring the ends up to make sets of pockets at each end, saddle bag style. Sew the different pockets to the different sizes you need for the individual remote controls. A good arrangement is two pockets on one end and three on the other. (You may want to secure to your chair with a few stitches.) If you are lucky there will be an empty one left over for pencil and note pad.

Miscellaneous

Bottle caps can usually be eliminated by putting the contents of the bottle in a squeeze container. Any eight-ounce squeeze mustard container, cleaned and rinsed, works well.

When it's haircut time and you just can't make it to the beautician or barber, ask him or her to drop by your house to trim your shaggy mane. Nine out of ten will say yes.

An absolute joy is to watch the humming birds at a feeder placed right above or beside a window. These little charmers are nearly as plentiful in the city as they are in the country. They unfailingly give your day a lift.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Bates, Joyce
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Sep 22, 1990
Words:879
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