Staying on treatment and working with your healthcare team are two important ways to manage your condition. But there’s even more you can do. There are simple changes you can make at home to help you conserve energy and protect your muscles. Likewise, when you’re away from home, living with DM or PM can pose some challenges. We’ve got tips that may help you make going away less of an uncertainty.
Modifications in your home
General changes to consider:
- Keep appliances you use daily within easy reach. Don’t store items too high or too low. This will help you to avoid unwanted muscle strain when stretching
- Keep your home free of clutter. You’ll save your energy not having to dig through closets or drawers to find something. Also, store items in clear plastic bins so you can easily see through them
- If you have lower body weakness, get a hip chair or barstool for sitting. These devices will reduce your need to rely on leg strength when getting up or sitting down
- Install foot switches for lamps and other appliances that require turning a switch on or off. Using your feet to complete these tasks will allow you to give your hands a break
- Spring-loaded tools (such as a screwdriver) can also reduce the level of stress placed on hand joints and arms
- Install doorknob extenders for greater ease and less strain when opening and closing doors
- Install a tub grab bar in your shower. It can help you safely enter and exit, especially when the shower is slippery. These are easy to install without a need for any tools
- A tub transfer bench rests half in and half outside your tub. If you have lower extremity weakness (quad weakness) it can help you safely get into the tub. Some can even swivel for greater ease
- Use an over-the-toilet commode if your toilet seat is too low for you. You can also remove the bucket and use just the frame in the shower. This will allow you to shower while sitting down
- To further help you conserve energy when bathing, use fast absorbing sports towels. These are lightweight compared with traditional bath towels
- If bending and stretching while dressing has become difficult, sit down when getting dressed. You can also try using a dressing stick and a sock aid to assist you with these activities
- If you have shoulder pain or problems with range of motion, wear shirts with front buttons instead of pullovers
- Also, consider easy-to-fasten shoes with Velcro straps, and a photographer’s vest with pockets. The pockets are perfect for storing keys, cell phones and other personals. They are also easy to get to for people with shoulder rotation problems
- An electric jar opener will save your hands and arms from the stress of opening jars
- When cooking, buy pre-cut vegetables. This will save your upper-body muscles from the motion of chopping them yourself
- A kettle tipper and pot tipper are useful tools that allow you to pour with one hand without feeling the weight of the kettle or pot
- A pasta bucket strainer fits inside a pot. It simply lifts out when the pasta is cooked, and it easily drains. No need to lift a heavy, hot pot over the sink. Be sure to get one that’s mesh and lightweight
- Install lever arms for the kitchen faucet. These work by pushing the faucet on and off, instead of twisting, which can cause stress and strain
Whether you’re traveling near or far, having DM or PM can make the simplest trip more of a challenge. Before your trip you may feel worried and anxious, and have many questions and concerns. Some of your questions may include:
How will I get around safely?
Can I manage with my luggage?
What about airport security? How will I handle the screening process?
How should I pack and transport my medicine?
These are just a few of the thoughts that may cross your mind. You will most likely have many others. It’s normal to have these concerns. What’s most important is planning ahead and being well prepared when leaving town.
And with that in mind, we’ve prepared a list of tips to help you when planning your next trip.
1. Talk with your doctor before traveling.
Tell your doctor if you have concerns about traveling. He or she may offer guidance and advice that’s specific to your case and your condition.
2. Plan early.
Decide what to take with you beforehand. Make a list of items that should be placed in checked luggage, and items that should be placed in carry-ons. Pack your medications in carry-on items to avoid losing them if your checked bags go missing or get damaged. And remember, a medical supply bag is allowed in addition to the one personal bag and one carry-on bag limit.
3. Direct flights versus layovers.
A direct flight will get you where you’re going faster. It will also reduce the amount of running around you’ll need to do between flights. On the other hand, a layover could give you time to take a longer break outside of an airplane, and more time to visit a restroom and enjoy an extended meal.
4. Research local medical services.
Find out if there are any doctors or hospitals in the area you are traveling to that specialize in DM and PM. If you have a problem, you’ll know where to turn.
5. Get insurance coverage.
For peace of mind, you can get vacation insurance to protect you if you need to cancel your trip for a medical reason. Also, you can go a step further and buy medical evacuation insurance. This will provide you with air ambulance service back home if you need it.
6. Keep medicines in their original packaging.
This is most important when traveling abroad. And always take extra in case your trip is extended for any reason.
7. Don’t overpack.
If you can’t push, pull, or carry your luggage, then reduce the number of items you are taking with you. Pack only essentials.
8. Pack light snacks and water in your carry-on.
If there are delays, you’ll have something handy to eat and drink. It can help keep you from losing energy, getting dehydrated, and feeling fatigued.
9. Check the weather.
Before leaving, find out what the weather will be like at your destination. This will help you to pack the right clothes and essentials.
10. Know your limits.
When traveling, be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t push yourself. Make it a point to set aside time to rest and revitalize. If needed, schedule “rest days” and “on-the-go days” during your trip. Your body will appreciate it.
11. Consider using a travel agent.
If planning the trip requires too much time and energy, use an agent to book it. Try to find one who will work closely with you, and listen to your specific needs and concerns.
12. Contact your airline.
You can call your airline in advance to request bulkhead seating. These seats may offer you extra legroom and space for entering or exiting your row. Also, if your medicines require cold storage, ask your carrier if arrangements can be made to keep them in a refrigerator during your flight.
13. Rest before you go.
Planning, packing, and preparing for a trip can take a lot of energy. It’s important that you give yourself a break and conserve your energy as much as possible prior to your trip.
14. Know about the Air Carrier Access Act.
By law, the airlines must protect travelers who have medical disabilities. For more information, contact the US Department of Transportation toll-free hotline at 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY).
15. Download a “Z” card.
Get a wallet-sized card from the US Department of Homeland Security TSA website. It will help you to alert airport security of your condition before your screening. Download a disability notification card now.
16. Contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
If you have a disability, the TSA recommends calling its toll-free hotline (1-855-787-2227) 72 hours before your flight. They can help you to coordinate the security screening process in advance. For more information, visit the TSA online.