Category: <span>Practical Tips</span>

My wife’s right leg is not cooperating with her brain the way it should.  A podiatrist’s exam and x-rays ruled out any damage or disorder of the foot. Her foot and ankle are fine. But she’s not able to press the accelerator and brake with enough force to drive safely. Fortunately, she doesn’t like to drive and is good about letting me know when she shouldn’t be driving.

She wakes with numb tingling and little “command” of her leg’s behavior. I command my dog, Einstein, “Get down out of my chair.” He follows my command and hops to the floor. In the morning she commands her leg, “Move to the floor.” It responds, “yeah, right.” This recalcitrant behavior comes and goes but the current trend is not good.

I searched the ‘net for a solution.

I was surprised by all the hardware one can bolt onto a car or truck to make it useful to one who cannot use their right foot on the accelerator and brake. To summarize my discoveries, I found left foot accelerators which allow one to drive without requiring the use of the right foot.

The left foot accelerator mounts on the floor near the original brake and accelerator. One end of a heavy rod attaches to the bottom of the left hand accelerator and stretches beneath the brake pedal. At the right end of the rod is a paddle that presses against the original accelerator when the left hand accelerator is pressed.

That’s the basic design and (in terms of engineering) it looks like it would work well. Those I’ve reviewed look sturdy and have many bolt holes to use when fastening to the floorboard.

But I see a problem. So much of driving is based upon habitual behavior. Unless we’re learning to drive, we rarely wonder, “Which one of the pedals is the brake?” While not truly an instinct, pressing the brake and accelerator seem instinctive. We don’t think about them. And when we need to brake quickly, we automatically mash the brake peddle.

If the accelerator is on the opposite side of the brake after we install a left hand accelerator, how long does it take for the left leg and foot to brake and accelerate with the “instinctive” behavior? The device seems to me like it could be dangerous. It’s easy to imagine someone smashing the left hand accelerator to the floor instead of the brake in an emergency requiring instinctive driving behavior. Instead of stopping, they would actually speed up!

After all, the brake is usually on the left.  We’ll think about this some more.

Practical Tips

If you pay too much attention to the news you will soon develop a whop-sided view of reality. It won’t be your fault, but it will happen nonetheless.

Here’s why: Most of the news on TV and in newspapers is about unpleasantness, trouble, strife and evil. One can quickly become overwhelmed by the disasters, crimes, wars, corporate greed, doomed world economy and the other bad stuff the directors of main stream media think should receive our attention.

While knowing about these things is important, hearing about them over and over can wear one down. According to Henry David Thoreau (Why is he always called by his full name? Can’t you hear his Momma, “Henry … David … Thoreau, you get yourself in here!”) …

Anyway, according to Henry, “To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip.” In other words, once you’ve heard one example of a bad thing, you’ve heard them all.

Maybe it’s a symptom of a negative society that we don’t notice there’s just as much good stuff going on in the world! Unfortunately, it doesn’t receive national or world attention. In fact, the world is full of good people who do good things.

Thank the kind people who do good things!

One I want to thank is Harold Holmes of Lincoln Beach Software. We’ve never met in person, but have swapped emails for years. In mid-2005 he mentioned in a newsgroup we frequent that he was raising money to help find a cure for MS by riding in the 2005 MS150 bike ride.

I thanked him in a private email and mentioned that what he was doing is special in my world because my wife has MS. He rode with her name on his jersey. This year, Harold has just completed another MS150. Again, Harold, thanks!

If you’d like to, read Harold’s BLOG of his inaugural MS150 ride.

Find someone like Harold and say, “Thanks!”

Caregiver Tip: Notice all the good people doing good things and thank a few of them. It will help you feel more hopeful and will give you a nicer view of reality.

Practical Tips

I don’t remember if I took the medicine to help me remember things,” my wife told me last night, “so I didn’t take it in case I already did.”

This morning I’ve searched the Internet for a way to organize her medications which will make it obvious for her that she has taken them or not. The solution I’m looking for seems to be called a 7-day pill box and there are many different styles available.

Later today I’ll visit the local drugstores and see if I can find one locally. From my search of the web, I think I want one that has 4 compartments for each day, it will not open too easily (to avoid spills), and it will be clearly labeled in terms of day of the week and time of medication administration (morning, noon, evening, bedtime). I also want one that has rounded compartment bottoms. This will make it easy to remove the pills from their compartments. I imagine some of her smaller pills could easily hide in the corners or edges of a square-bottomed compartment.

Fortunately, from my online search, it looks like pill boxes are among the least expensive medical supplies. Most that meet the criteria I’ve listed are only a little more than $10.00. Though, I’m guessing they’ll be a little more than that if purchased locally.

Caregiver Tip: Before you buy something you’ve never before purchased, search the Internet and learn as much as you can. For example, comparing 20 pill boxes online makes it easier to choose the best features to meet your needs.

Practical Tips

Sometimes it really is the little things that make it easier for an MS patient. Think about a door knob. Door knobs are simple and elegant in design. One simply squeezes the knob and turns it. If one has a good grip, that is. Without a firm grip, door knobs can be frustrating.

Replacing the standard, round door knobs with door levers is a small, do it as you can, project that is a good example of the type of simple modifications one can do to enhance the living environment of an MS patient.

Door knobs with the lever-type handles are easier to open than the round knobs that must be held and turned. The offset handle makes it easy, too, to open a door with both hands full. By simply pressing down on the lever the door can be opened.

Replacement door levers come with instructions and, if one is skilled with a screwdriver, the replacement is not too complicated. However, if the work seems beyond your ability, there are probably plenty of folks who would be happy to help you at no charge if you explain the reason you need to install the new door levers.

Enough door levers for a whole house can be purchased at one time or you can buy them one-by-one as you replace the knobs. One per month spreads the cost out over time. I replaced the door knobs with door levers in our house and I think I paid about $15 each for those that do not lock (like for a closet) and $25 for those that do (like you would want on a bathroom door). My wife would caution, “make sure they all match!

Caregiver Tip: Small changes to the living environment can greatly enhance an MS patient’s ability to live comfortably.

Practical Tips