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Assistive Devices: Living Better With Arthritis

In the Bathroom

From small pill bottles and tiny nail clippers to hard porcelain surfaces, the bathroom can be tough to navigate with arthritis. A few self-help tools that can make life easier:

  • Medicine bottle openers. You don't need limited mobility to find medicine bottles hard to open. Fortunately, many inexpensive tools can help, some as simple as rubberized disks that aid your grip, others are specialty tools made for managing child-proof caps. You can also ask your pharmacist to fit your medications with easier-to-open lids.  
  • Tub/shower rails. Falls can happen to anyone around slick surfaces and water. Rails are simple to install and an easy way to provide extra stability in the bath or shower; add a non-skid mat to the bottom of the stall to make things even safer.  
  • Elevated toilet seats can make getting on and off the toilet easier, as can grab rails mounted nearby.
  • Long-handled brushes or bath mitts can help make washing up in the tub or shower less difficult. Buy two sets and you can use the second to clean the tub/shower itself.  
  • Easy-grip nail cutters have larger blades and handles than conventional clippers, and they need less pressure to use, saving wear and tear on joints.  

In the Bedroom

Getting dressed can be hard on your hands, but fortunately there are self-help devices to make the job easier and faster:

  • Zipper puller/buttoner. This fat-handled tool has a hook for pulling zippers, and a metal loop that helps you manage buttons. Buying clothes one size larger can also make daily dressing a little easier.
  • Coil shoe laces make quick work of tying shoes, or you can opt for slip-ons or shoes with Velcro closures.
  • Sock puller. Slip your sock or stocking over the plastic end of this device and with a tug of two straps socks and stockings slide on more easily.
  • Long-handled shoe horns help make sliding shoes on easier. You can quickly make your own by taping a small shoe-horn to a yard stick.

The Most Underused Assistive Device

Of all self-help devices, a cane may be the most often seen, but it's also one of the most underused, maintains White.

For many, there's the persistent fear that a cane makes them seem older than they are, yet using a cane is "not really about the cane," White tells WebMD. Instead it's about the independence, confidence, and mobility a cane can give.

Remember that even a pair of eyeglass frames can reflect your personal style; White maintains a cane can, too. "Just remember Fred Astaire, and that wonderful cane in Top Hat." Whether you'll be dancing or walking with one however, make sure to use a cane correctly: On the opposite side from your bad leg.

Not sure if a cane, reach extender, or other assistive device is right for you? Talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist. They can guide you to the self-help tools that will give you the help you need.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD, PhD on October 22, 2012

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