Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis: Assistive Devices for Easier Living
Even with the best treatment, rheumatoid arthritis can slow you down. That's why a good treatment plan doesn't stop with just medicine and exercise. If you start to have trouble with everyday activities, help is available.
Assistive devices are products and tools that can make life with rheumatoid arthritis easier. They might be new things you add to your home, or improvements to something you already have. These simple devices let you continue to cook, clean, get dressed, bathe, and move around with relative ease.
The first step is recognizing when and where you could use some extra help. Sometimes people adapt to changes in their ability level, giving up things they like to do without even recognizing it. Regular visits to your rheumatologist and an occupational therapist should uncover any changes in your level of function.
Next, take action. Having rheumatoid arthritis doesn't have to mean losing your independence. Check out this room-by-room guide for some ideas of how to make your daily activities easier.
Assistive Devices to Help You Get Around
- A cane or crutch used on the opposite side of a painful knee or hip makes walking easier.
- Orthotics help ease painful feet. They are inserts (either ready-made, or custom-fit by a podiatrist) worn in the shoe. Other options include padded insoles or a pair of comfortable orthopedic shoes.
- Braces and splints provide support to joints and decrease strain.
- Reachers are long rods with a grip handle on one end and pincers (like a claw, used to grab) on the other. They let you pick up small objects without having to bend over or reach uncomfortably.
- Elevated chair legs make it easier to get in and out of your seat. The chairs you have can usually be fitted with extenders.
Assistive Devices for the Kitchen
Trying to grip utensils with small handles makes cooking and eating harder than necessary. Arthritis-friendly utensils with fat foam handles are widely available and can make a world of difference. Consider these other simple ideas around the kitchen, too:
- Buy pots and pans with handles on both sides. That makes them easier for you to carry.
- Give your fingers and hands a break and use an electric jar opener and electric can opener when you are preparing foods.
- Rearrange your kitchen so that the things you use most often are the easiest to reach.
- Replace small switches and doorknobs with large, easy-to-grip knobs, or levers which don't require turning.
Assistive Devices for the Bedroom
Most people with rheumatoid arthritis have joint stiffness in the morning that can make just getting up and out the hardest part of the day. A few simple changes can help.
- Switch to big buttons, button hooks, or Velcro closures. Buttons the size of a nickel or larger are easier to manipulate. Closures in the front are better, especially for bras and dresses.
- Use lamps activated by touch or by your voice. And small, hard-to-turn switches on lamps can be replaced with larger grip-and-turn knobs.
- Find sock aids and zipper pulls. A sock aid can help you pull up your socks without bending your legs. A zipper pull, which has a large rung that attaches to a zipper tag, makes zippers easier to grab and zip.