Need a little help sometimes? Maybe getting out of a chair, cooking a meal, or writing out a shopping list? You can make life with rheumatoid arthritis easier with a few handy helpers that don’t cost a lot.
"People say that they don't want to use an assistive device because they don't want to feel dependent," says Jane McCabe, OTR/L, an occupational therapist and certified aging-in-place specialist in Laguna Hills, Calif. "But these devices can make them more independent."
With the right one, you'll have more freedom to do what you want with less pain. Here are eight helpful tools. Most are under $20. You can even make some on your own with supplies at home.
Reacher. If your shoulders hurt, reaching up high is difficult. And if you have pain in your hips, bending over hurts, too. The solution: a reacher. The simplest type is a stick with a hook at the end, also called a "dressing stick." Many others have clamps at the end that you control with a trigger. You can use them to grab a can from a high shelf or pick up keys that have fallen on the floor.
Some trigger reachers can be hard to use if you have pain in your fingers, says Lenore Frost, PhD, OTR/L, a clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. Look for reachers that don't put too much stress on painful finger joints.
Doorknob covers. For a lot of people with RA, opening doors is especially painful or difficult -- it's the combined holding and turning motion. Doorknob covers slip over knobs to make them bigger and easier to grip.
You can also replace your doorknobs with handles, although that costs more.
Wide-handled spatula. Is it hard to grasp and hold kitchen tools? Get a spatula -- and other kitchen gear -- with fatter, easy-grip handles. Most kitchen stores carry them.
Victoria Ruffing, RN, program manager at the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center in Baltimore, says you can also make your own. "Just duct-tape a washcloth around the utensils you already have," she says. You can also buy cheap pipe insulation online or at hardware stores to cover handles.
Electric jar opener. If your hands and fingers give you trouble, a jar opener can take away some of the need to grip and twist.
Wide-barreled pen. If using a pen hurts, get one with a wide barrel. It'll be easier to hold. You can also put cheap rubber grips over standard pens and pencils to make them easier to grip.
Cane. You might think a cane is for someone old or infirm. You might feel self-conscious using it. But if you're feeling unsteady on your feet, a cane could get you out of your chair and moving with more confidence, Ruffing says.