Mobility Circle

The easier it is to move around, the better your quality of life.  However, many people with MS have issues that affect their functional mobility, which is the ability to go where you want, when you want.  Here are a few suggestions to improve your functional mobility through assistive devices:

  • We use cars, buses, and trains every day to travel distances further than we want to walk.  Each of these are a type of mobility aid.  Similarly, every person can use a variety of personal tools to be mobile in their home and community.  These tools can range from an ankle brace to a cane or walker to wheeled mobility.
  • Many people with MS will need to change their adaptive devices.  If your cane or walker is no longer enough to maintain functional mobility, then it is time to consider wheeled mobility.
  • Wheeled mobility can divided into three broad categories: Manual Wheelchairs, Scooters, and  Power Wheelchairs.
  • Each type of wheelchair serves a different purpose and meets a different need.  A transport chair, for example, can be easily loaded/unloaded and is designed to be pushed by someone other than the occupant.  Alternatively, an ultralight manual wheelchair can be optimally configured to improve the ease of self-propelling.
  • If you do not have the energy level to functionally self-propel push a manual chair all day long, you may opt to explore power mobility options, especially for longer distances outside the home. 
  • Scooters have the advantage of not looking like a wheelchair.  For persons who can get in and out of the scooter and operate it safely, it can be a great device to provide functional mobility. However, a scooter may also require more space for turning and be more difficult to maneuver.  In this case, a power wheelchair may also be the optimal device, especially if you need help maintaining your sitting balance or if your arms get tired reaching out for the tiller of the scooter.
  • Power wheelchairs also provide flexibility, add support to improve your posture, and offer changing seating options that can protect your skin from damage due to prolonged pressure while sitting for longer periods of time.
  • No matter which mobility device you use, understanding your needs for postural support and avoiding the risk of a pressure injury are essential for successful long-term use.
  • In addition to functional adaptations, environmental adaptations may be necessary as you move from device to device.
  • A team of professionals can help you understand these adaptations, as well as the options available to meet your needs.  Many seating and mobility teams consist of YOU, a therapist and a supplier who specializes in individualized wheelchair configurations.
  • Your team will assess your range of motion, strength, tone, and your ability to sit upright against gravity in a “neutral position” with your trunk straight, pelvis neutral, and lower legs supported.
  • Your team will also identify the need for additional supports for your trunk, head, arms, and legs.  Once your postural supports are identified, the team will help you find the right cushions that protect your skin from pressure injuries. 
  • Your team will also assess your ability to move around in the chair to perform ‘pressure reliefs’, shifting your body to avoid prolonged pressure.  You may have enough sensation to feel when you need to move, but might need the help of a power seating option (tilting and/or reclining your chair) to relieve that discomfort and give your buttocks a break.
  • Finally, your team should test your mobility equipment to ensure your satisfaction with the device prior to ordering the equipment.
  • Using and changing devices can take a toll emotionally.  Emotions related to losing function and “not being able to do things like before” are common. Time is needed to accept changes in function and adjustments to another tool.  You may need to reach out to a mental health professional to help you process these changes and develop resiliency skills.
  • Reducing activities due to fatigue, fear of falling, or just not wanting to be seen with an assistive device is a common coping strategy, which, in turn, can lead to increased isolation from activities that you enjoy and losing relationships with friends and even family members. 
  • Adding wheeled mobility to your tool kit for living well and staying active is a big step (no pun intended); but it is a step that you and your support circle will benefit from.  Staying active means staying connected with others, staying involved in life, and staying mobile. 
  • Finally, remember that mobility should be functional… go where you want, when you want!
  • For more information, here are some additional resources:

Mobility Circle
Seating & Wheeled Mobility: What Are The Options?

December 11th, 2018 @ 8:00pm - 9:15pm US/Eastern

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