Assistive Devices and Adaptive Tools for Psoriatic Arthritis

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on July 27, 2022
4 min read

When you live with moderate to severe psoriatic arthritis, symptoms like swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion might make it more difficult to manage daily tasks, from getting dressed and preparing meals to working and driving. Adaptive and assistive devices can help.

These tools are designed to keep your joints in the right positions, provide leverage and extend range of motion to make activities easier, and help maintain your quality of life.

The options for assistive devices range from simple tools like shoe horns and grab bars to high-tech tools like hands-free headsets and voice-activated software, all designed to help with daily tasks.

You can purchase most of these devices at hardware or medical supply stores or order them online and have them delivered right to your door. Remember to check with your health insurance provider to see if adaptive devices are covered under your plan.

These devices can help in all areas of your life.

Personal hygiene: You know that installing grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet, using nonslip mats and adding raised toilet seats are important for helping with balance and reducing the risk of falls, but there are other clever devices designed for the bathroom to make it easier to manage all of your personal hygiene tasks. Tap turners offer leverage to help to turn the water on and off for brushing your teeth or washing your hands and a hair dryer stand offers a hands-free alternative to holding a heavy hair dryer to dry your hair.

Getting dressed: Instead of donating your favorite clothing when it gets hard to pull zippers or lace shoes, look for adaptive devices designed to help you get dressed. There are specific devices like shoe horns, button hooks, and zipper pulls that make it easier to look good from head to toe, and certain clothing choices that might be more trouble-free than others, including shoes with elastic shoelaces or adjustable straps.

Shopping: Skip the heavy plastic shopping basket and roll a grocery cart down the aisle to hold all of your items; pack fewer items in each bag at checkout and choose bags with wide handles or straps to make them easier to carry. On days when you’re not feeling well enough to head to the store, order groceries online and have them delivered to your door.

Cooking: It might be easier to eat processed foods than to slice and dice the ingredients for a home cooked meal, but high-calorie, packaged foods are linked to higher levels of inflammation.

To make it easier to prepare fresh, healthy meals, replace manual devices like can openers and veggie peelers with electric options; use a food processor instead of hand-chopping ingredients; and purchase rubber jar openers to help twist lids. You can also find utensils with larger handles and grips that are easier to grasp and long-handled tools with grippers to reach items on tall shelves.

Housekeeping: You need to tackle the household chores, but all of the bending, lifting, scrubbing, and scouring can be hard on your joints and may worsen your fatigue. Rubber gloves and long-handled tools are ideal for gripping items and dusting hard-to-reach areas without standing on a step stool or ladder and lightweight vacuums are less cumbersome to use (and move from room-to-room). If housework is too much to manage solo, ask your family to help or consider hiring a cleaning crew to tackle the task.

Gardening: Tending to a garden is a popular pastime, and adaptive devices like garden benches and padded kneelers or long-handled garden tools that minimize the need for bending over can make it easier to grow beautiful blooms. A garden cart to haul supplies, lightweight hoses and smaller, more lightweight watering containers can also ensure that psoriatic arthritis won’t keep you from digging in the dirt.

Working: Devices from adapted writing utensils and voice-to-text software to automatic door openers, hands-free headsets, and adjustable-height work surfaces can be the key for managing a 9-to-5 with a chronic disease like psoriatic arthritis. Talk to your manager about the accommodations you may need to manage your tasks and devote time to setting up your work area for optimal comfort.

Driving: You depend on your vehicle to get around town but sometimes driving is a literal pain. Switch to a key with a wide base that’s easier to grip and turn in the ignition, and buy a gas cap opener to help with fill-ups.

Sometimes, small adaptations are all it takes to more easily manage activities of daily living, and there are devices like wheelchairs, walkers, adaptive beds, and stair lifts to help with more advanced mobility issues.

Your health care provider can make recommendations or refer you to an occupational therapist to help choose specific adaptive devices or other “life hacks” that can help with all of your daily tasks and increase the odds that you can continue to live well and enjoy life with psoriatic arthritis.