Assistive Devices and Home Modifications

Neuromyelitis spectrum disorder (NMO) is a rare disease that targets the central nervous system (brain and spine). The effects of NMO can sometimes make previously simple daily tasks harder. Assistive devices and tools can help to decrease these effects and help you regain your independence. Modifications to your home may also be needed to help make daily tasks easier, especially if you have problems with walking or vision.1

Mobility equipment

Those with NMO may have problems walking because of vision impairment, weakness, balance problems, or other challenges. Many people experience a decrease in their strength, which may require the use of an assistive device such as a cane or crutches. Others may be unable to stand or walk. For these people, wheelchairs and personal scooters can be a useful way to stay mobile.1

Wheelchairs can be much more than bulky hospital chairs you may be familiar with. There are hundreds of styles of modern wheelchairs and personal scooters. Depending on your needs and abilities, these fall into 3 categories:1

  • Self-propelled – Pushed by the person in the wheelchair
  • Attendant-propelled – Pushed by someone other than the person in the wheelchair
  • Electrical-powered – Run on batteries that allow the user to easily and quickly move with minimal effort

For many, the use of a wheelchair can greatly aid in living life as normally as possible. Needing a wheelchair because of NMO is not always permanent. With treatment and rehabilitation, some people improve over time to a point where a wheelchair is no longer needed. This is highly individual, and outcomes of NMO are unpredictable.1

Canes, walkers, crutches, and scooters may also be helpful for those with NMO. Talk to your doctor about your mobility needs. A physical therapist can also help determine which mobility devices are best for you.1

Daily living equipment and tools

Devices and tools can be used to help you perform you daily tasks such as:1

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Doing laundry
  • Washing dishes
  • Cooking
  • Getting out of bed
  • Traveling
  • Exercising

These useful tools all help you to maintain or regain your independence. Devices may be simple and small, or large and complex. For example, an electric can opener can help with meal preparation. A stair lift is a large item you may install in your home when climbing stairs becomes difficult because of weakness or pain.1
Examples of tools include:1

  • Button hooks to help fasten pants and shirts
  • Elastic waistbands or magnetic clasps for clothing
  • Velcro bras
  • Wide-handled toothbrushes
  • Easy-grip spoons or forks
  • Electric jar openers

Visual assistive devices and accomodations

NMO causes inflammation in the nerve bundles of the eye (optic nerves). This can cause eye pain, blurry or double vision, problems telling the difference between colors, and other eye symptoms. For some people with NMO, this can lead to blindness in 1 or both eyes. These symptoms may be temporary or permanent.2

Visual aids or adaptive devices might help improve your ability to perform your daily tasks. Some of these devices include:3

  • Handheld magnifying lenses, which might be helpful when reading. Many books are also available in larger print. You can also adjust your computer screen and many smartphone screens to enlarge the text in order to read it better.
  • Speech-to-text software, which can be helpful when writing emails or letters on the computer.
  • Phones with large buttons or clocks with large numbers and faces are also helpful for everyday tasks.

You may find that you need to modify your home to best accommodate your visual needs. These simple tips do not require a home remodel. Rather, think of basic ways you can improve the lighting or pathways in your home. Some ideas are:4

  • Aim light at what you want to see. Add light to dim areas or where you often wish you could see better.
  • Make sure entryways and staircases are well-lit to avoid potentially hazardous conditions.
  • Use contrast. If your walls are dark, use light switch covers. You can also get glow-in-the-dark light switch covers.
  • Label and mark where you can, using high contrast. For example, use big, bold, black lettering on a white background for signs.
  • Tape down any throw rugs or remove them completely.
  • If you have electrical cords in high-traffic areas, either remove them or tape them down as far out of the way as possible.

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Written by: Katie Murphy | Last reviewed: September 2021