Having MS doesn't necessarily mean you will need to make any changes to your home, but sometimes the right adaptations can make sure it still suits your day-to-day life. This can even mean the difference between staying in the home you love and having to move.
If you are thinking about adaptations to your home, an occupational therapist (OT) can do an assessment to see what would be useful for you. You can ask a member of your health or social care team to refer you.
For more information about what OTs can do to support you, and how to find one, see the leaflet, Occupational therapy and MS from the College of Occupational Therapists
You don’t need to be a home owner to have adaptations made - landlords must make reasonable adjustments for disabled tenants. Private landlords can apply for financial support for necessary works.For larger adaptations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is the major source of funding. In Scotland, the main source is the Scheme of Assistance.
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Who can help?
Locally-based agencies like 'Care & Repair’ and ‘Staying Put’ offer support with home adaptations in partnership with local authorities.
They can help you to get financial support and coordinate building works and payment. Some will also help with things like gardening and advice on preventing falls around the home.
Each nation in the UK has a coordinating body for these agencies:
- Foundations in England
- Care and Repair in Scotland
- Care and Repair Cymru in Wales
- Fold Housing Association and G.A.B.L.E in Northern Ireland
Other useful organisations
There are also many private suppliers of gadgets and equipment. Sometimes a product that is easily available in a household store can do the job just as well as a specialist product. The Disability Equipment Register and The Mobility Market advertise second hand equipment.
Remap.org.uk helps you achieve independence and a better quality of life by designing and making equipment for your individual needs. Their tailor-made equipment helps you to carry out essential daily tasks without having to ask for help, or helps you to take part in leisure activities or sports that would otherwise be difficult
Adaptations room by room
This list of adjustments, items of equipment and small adaptations will give you an idea of what's available, but there are many more.
For a complete list read our booklet Adaptations and your home.
- Single lever or automatic taps and easy-grip handles on cooking utensils and cutlery can help if gripping is a problem.
- A ‘perching stool’ can help you avoid standing up to do the washing up or ironing.
- Non-slip mats can keep things from sliding around worktops when preparing food.
- If you have problems with balance and standing, bath and shower benches or boards provide a place to sit when in the bath or shower.
- Use non-skid safety strips or a rubber bathmat on the bath bottom and add grab bars to the wall or edge of the bath for support.
- A removable showerhead with a long hose can make rinsing easier.
- A raised toilet seat, which ﬁts over your existing one, can help with getting up and down from the toilet.
- An occupational therapist can show you the most effective ways to get in and out of bed.
- Raise the height of the bed with correctly fitted equipment. Don’t use improvised raisers (such as wooden blocks or bricks or telephone directories)
- A ‘bed lever’ attaches to your bed and can help you to sit, lie, stand and steady
- Use ‘reachers’ to pick things off the floor or down from a shelf
- A chair that’s the right height for you with filled-in arms can be easier to get up from. Filled-in arms also stop magazines and TV remotes from falling through.
- Avoid raising your chair height with piles of cushions. This is bad for your back and can make getting out of the chair more difficult.
- Two banisters can be a real help with balance
- Stair lifts are also a good option for some people
Entrances and exits
- Making sure you have easy access to and from your home is as important as improving things inside
- Fitted handles on the side of a door frame can be helpful to get up and down a step. Adding a half step to reduce the height of the step can also help
- If you use a wheelchair sometimes, you might want to have ramps fitted, or use temporary ones
- If you use a wheelchair, you might need to widen doorways to fit through
- Grow plants in containers instead of in the ground
- Use long-handled garden tools saving you from getting down to ground level
- Use automatic watering systems
- Paving or decking is generally easier to maintain and more accessible
The charity Thrive has more suggestions about making gardening accessible and enjoyable.
Planning larger adaptations
If you need to have bigger works done like putting in ramps or a lift, widening doors or installing a level access shower or wet room, you may get help with funding from your local council (or in Northern Ireland your Health and Social Care Trust). There are certain things you might want to consider, to make the process as smooth as possible:
- Works could take several weeks and involve different people, so write down everything you’ve discussed and agreed with everyone.
- Prepare for disruption: You can’t avoid it all, but you can keep it to a minimum.
- Make sure grants or other financial support are agreed before you do anything, including signing any contracts or scheduling work.
- Prepare by getting quotes and advice, including checking planning permission and building regulations. Your local Citizens Advice can help, as can the housing and social care departments of your local council (or trust in Northern Ireland).
- Tell your mortgage provider and home insurance provider what you are planning
For a full list, see our booklet Adaptations and your home.