Eyeglasses, bottle openers, pliers -- we use dozens of assistive devices every day; without them there's a lot we couldn't do.
So when rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or another condition puts the brakes on what you do, why not expand your tool set to include a few helpful devices that make it easier to do the things you enjoy?
Jerry Wade used to love bird-watching with his wife, an avid birder.
"I'm not a birder myself, but I like being active and getting out there
with her," he says. "Bird-watching puts you into natural areas and some
rough terrain -- it's not an easy physical activity."
But in the fall of 2005, the 66-year-old Columbia, Mo., resident, who had
retired in 2000 from a career in community development, started noticing
"pains and twinges" in his knees. A visit to his doctor in January 2006
Arthritis is the most common cause of disability, says Patience H. White, MD, vice president of public health for the Arthritis Foundation, and with more than 100 types of arthritis, affecting 46 million people, that's not surprising.
Fortunately there are hundreds of tools that can help. But before you employ any assistive device, be sure to use your own strength and range-of-motion first, the better to preserve both. A few all-purpose self-help tools you can use anywhere in the house include:
Fat rubber grips slip over everything from a toothbrush handle to a pen or potato peeler, reducing pressure on your joints and making it easier to hold small items.
Doorknob adapters are lever handles that fit over standard round doorknobs; once installed you only need push the lever up or down to open a door
Lamp adapters. Screw a lamp adapter into a light bulb socket and it converts any metal lamp into a touch lamp with three brightnesses.
Leg extenders can lengthen the legs of your office chair, dining room table, kitchen island, or any piece of furniture that's too low to use comfortably.
Spring-loaded scissors can save your hands from fatigue from garden to office.
Key turners snap onto the heads of household keys, widening your gripping surface and making keys easier to turn.
In the Kitchen
You can keep the kitchen the heart of the house with assistive devices that make cooking, serving, and eating easier.
Power appliances like mixers, food processors, slow cookers, can openers, microwave ovens and dishwashers make short work of kitchen chores, use less of your valuable energy, and pamper joints.
A wheeled cart or island in the kitchen helps you move food from cooktop to tabletop. Make things even easier by replacing heavy pots, pans, and dishes with lighter table- and cookware.
Lever-style faucets or tap turners. Convert difficult-to-manage faucet heads to lever-style faucets, or invest in inexpensive tap turners, lever-shaped pieces of plastic that fit over faucet heads and make turning taps easier.
Reach extenders, rods with a lever on one end and a gripper on the other, help you retrieve cans from high shelves, or pick up items dropped on the floor. As a matter of fact this handy tool, which can also come with a magnetic tip, is useful all over the house.
Jar openers can be as simple as a small rubber disk that fits over a twist-top lid, giving you better traction, or you can opt for specialty hooks, levers, and pliers-like grippers.