While the use of painkillers tends to grab most of the headlines when it
comes to coping with arthritis, the use of assistive
devices also plays an important role. These simple devices can improve your
ability to walk, bathe, cook, clean, and get dressed with relative ease.
"Think of arthritis as both pain and the loss of joint function. Both
are incapacitating," explains John Klippel, MD, president and CEO of the
Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta." One of the approaches to pain is drugs. But by and large, the approach to functional
loss involves the use of assistive devices."
If you think you have scleroderma, tell your doctor what symptoms you've noticed.
In order to make a diagnosis, he'll ask you about your family's health history, look for changes in how thick your skin is, and do some tests.
He may look at your finger under a microscope to check for changes in tiny blood vessels. These start to vanish early on in scleroderma. He’ll likely take a blood sample and send it to the lab to see if your immune system is in overdrive.
Your doctor may also take a small...
Where do you begin, and what can help you the most? Check out this
room-by-room guide to learn exactly how and where assistive devices can help
you with the activities of daily living.
Your Kitchen/Dining Room
There are many useful aids and strategies that can help
make cooking and eating easier for people with arthritis.
For example, "utensils are often small and difficult to grip for people
with arthritis in their hands," Klippel says. But choosing utensils with
wide-grip foam handles can make a big difference. "The handles are bigger
so people can grip them," he says. Other devices that ease life in the
A reach extender. This rod with trigger-controlled grasp at the far end
allows people to reach 26 to 30 inches and pick up small objects -- say a can
of soup in an otherwise out-of-reach cupboard.
A jar opener. Once you get that jar down, open it with an automatic jar
opener that clamps down on jars of any size and twists off the caps.
Door levers. Replace door and faucet knobs with levers so you don't have to
grip and twist door knobs.
Chair extenders. Extenders on chair legs can elevate the seat at the
kitchen or dining room table to the height at which it's easiest for you to
sit. Stools, carts, or trash cans on wheels can also help.
Kitchen setup is also key. Rearrange your cupboards and drawers so you have
quick and easy access to the items you use most often. This will help reduce
the need for painful stretching. Raise the level of
electrical appliances, including microwaves, food processors, and bread makers
to a comfortable height to help relieve undue pressure on your hips and
And be sure to look for the Arthritis Foundation "Ease-of-Use
Commendation Logo" the next time you are in the grocery store. This seal
signifies user-friendly products and packaging. The Folgers AromaSeal™
Canister, for one, has an easy-to-hold handle and a foil seal that peals away
so no can opener is necessary. For a complete list of all such products, visit
You can buy many assistive devices online. Just search for the name of the
product you want. Or contact your local Arthritis Foundation chapter to find
local stores that sell these products.