Assistive Devices for Easier Living With RA

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 12, 2022
3 min read

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. Extra help is available if you start to have trouble with everyday activities.

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 more ease.

The first step is to recognize when and where you could use some more help. Sometimes people adapt to changes in their ability level, giving up things they like to do without even realizing it.

Next, take action to stay as independent as possible. Check out this room-by-room guide for some ideas of how to make your daily life easier.

  • 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 support joints and lower 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.
  • Taller chair legs make it easier to get in and out of your seat. The chairs you have can usually be fitted with extenders.

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. They're easier to carry.
  • Give your fingers and hands a break and use an electric jar opener and electric can opener when you prepare 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 that you don’t need to turn.

Most people with rheumatoid arthritis have joint stiffness in the morning. A few simple changes will make it easier to get going.

  • Switch to big buttons, button hooks, or Velcro closures. Buttons the size of a nickel or larger are easier to use. Closures in the front are better, especially for bras and dresses.
  • Use lamps that turn on and off by touch or by your voice. And replace small, hard-to-turn switches on lamps 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.

Try these options:

  • A tub bench or shower seat lets you sit down while you get clean.
  • Non-skid shower mats make the tub safer.
  • Grab bars make it easier to get in and out of the bath.
  • A raised toilet seat with side rails makes it easier to get on and off.
  • Long-handled sponges help you wash your legs and feet without bending. Also, large sponges are easier to grip than washcloths.
  • Easy-to-pull shower curtains are better than heavy shower doors.
  • An electric toothbrush with a fat handle is easier than a regular toothbrush.
  • Put a seat in front of your sink so you can avoid leaning forward. Do the same with using a freestanding mirror for grooming.

These items and many more are available at full-service pharmacies and surgical supply stores. The Arthritis Foundation is also a great source. If you can't install something yourself, the store can often arrange it. Or check with your local hardware store to see if they can recommend someone to do it for you.

Also get a referral to an occupational therapist from your rheumatologist or your regular doctor if you haven't already. Occupational therapists specialize in helping people keep their independence. They may have other ideas for assistive devices or changes to your home that could make a huge difference.