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How to Make a Living With MS

Many jobs can be done well with MS, but you may need to ask for certain accommodations, such as a redesigned work station.

The physical and mental effects of MS can make getting and keeping a job difficult, but there are other ways to generate income.

In her book Living with Chronic Illness, Cheri Register writes, “When you have a chronic condition [like MS], you have two matters to resolve. What must I do to keep this illness from impoverishing me? and What can I do now that I have physical limitations?”

The unpredictability of multiple sclerosis (MS) makes working harder. Fortunately, there are more ways to make money now than ever before. People with MS often use one or more of the following ways to make ends meet.

Run a Business
Angelee Dion, of Santa Cruz, California, has found several different ways to survive and find fulfilling work. Now 51, she started having MS symptoms in high school. After college, she worked for three years in construction. “I found it incredibly satisfying and enjoyable,” Dion says. “I would have stayed if not for balance and strength problems.”

Giving up construction work, she went back to school and learned computer-assisted design skills. Many architects need help with drafting, and Dion created a business called ArchAngel Design to fill that need. She then learned some architecture skills and started planning home improvements and renovations.

When her MS progressed, she found she could no longer get into people’s homes with her scooter. So she bought a 7-foot portable ramp that enables her to ride her scooter up two or three steps into many homes.

Ask for Job Accommodations
Many jobs can also be done well with MS, though certain modifications may be necessary. Thomas Schaaf, 57, is a law professor in San Francisco. “I teach a three-hour class,” he says. “I used to stand, but now I sit because of fatigue. I try to arrange my schedule to not have classes on back-to-back days. And I try to avoid night classes, because I'm more fatigued at night.”

Of course, most jobs aren’t that flexible, and many are more physically demanding. But you can ask for accommodations. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) created rules for work accommodations.

ODEP’s Job Accommodation Network details possible accommodations for MS, including part-time work and flexible hours, cooler environments, redesigned desks and work stations, grab bars, and dozens more.

If you want accommodations at work, you will have to ask for them, and this will probably mean telling your employer about your MS — which carries some risks. But if you are a liked and valued employee, your company may be willing to accommodate your needs.

If your company has more than 15 employees, they may have to accommodate you under ADA as long as changes are deemed “reasonable.” If it can be arranged, working from home often turns out to be the best way to maintain productivity and manage disabilities.

Apply for Disability Payments
At some point, you may need to file for disability benefits. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) come with health insurance, which can be critical if you can’t work a full-time job. The programs are not always easy to qualify for, and you may want to get help from a counselor when applying. In addition, states may have their own disability programs.

But disability does not mean the end of work. SSDI allows you to earn up to about $1090 per month along with your benefits. SSI also allows work, but deducts half your earned income from your disability payments.

Get Help From Loved Ones
No one wants to be dependent, but loved ones may be able to help keep you afloat if necessary, either with cash or by providing you with a place to live.

If you have to move in with a friend or family member, you can still find ways to contribute, such as by providing child care, doing light housework, handling bills, or just being available to listen.

If you’re married, your spouse may need to provide more of the family income. Carlos Reyes, 38, of Denver had to give up his job as a chef because the heat and stress made his MS worse.

“Now I cook at home and take care of the kids,” Reyes says. “It’s not what we wanted, but we have to make the best of it.”

Use Your Skills or Resources
Freelance work — such as editing, writing, consulting, advising, or teaching what you’re good at — may allow you to work from home and give you some control over your work hours.

Other options for working as an independent contractor include pet sitting or dog walking or, if you have a car and can drive, driving for a taxi service such as Uber or Lyft, or driving for a delivery service.

You can also make money from your home itself by taking in a roommate or renting a room through AirBnB. You can also rent out your car through businesses like Turo or JustShareIt. And you can even rent out your bike using services such as Spinlister or Spokefly.

You may have to mix and match these strategies — or try others — to create a plan that works for you.

Berkeley, California, resident Marcia Godwin, 51, who has MS-related cognitive issues, says, “I now get my money from a combination of working part-time as a file clerk, renting out what was formerly the living room as a bedroom, and gifting from my mother,” along with occasional gigs writing about food or counseling about nutrition.

Making a living with MS will require creativity, but you can overcome the challenges. Even if you cannot make enough money to support yourself completely, you can be helping out and doing interesting and rewarding things, occupying what Cheri Register calls “a place of usefulness in the world.”

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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