With rheumatoid arthritis, you can still lead an active life, look great, and do the things you enjoy. There are gadgets, which your doctor may call “assistive devices,” that can help you regain your independence and make daily tasks easier.
Some are specially designed for people with conditions like RA, to make it easier to bend, reach, or grip. You might find them at a pharmacy or medical supply store, or you can search online for some devices. You may already have others at home.
Dressing and Grooming
Clothes fastener. A button hook at one end makes it easier to fasten small buttons on blouses and sweaters. A hook on the other end helps open and close zippers.
Long-handled shoe horn. The long handle makes it easier to put on shoes when bending is hard. A small notch on the end helps remove socks.
Long-handled comb. A long handle with a coated grip makes it easier to comb your hair if RA affects your arm and wrist movement.
Wash mitt. Made of terry cloth or mesh, this mitt can be used with body wash or bar soap. You won't have to grip a washcloth anymore.
Tip: Think of a foam hair curler as an assistive device. Insert the handle of a toothbrush through the center to create an easier-to-grip handle, or cut the curler down one side and slip it over a brush handle. Flossers and electric toothbrushes also make it easier to take care of your teeth.
In Your Kitchen
Try these items to make it easier to prep, cook, and serve food.
Two-handled pots and pans. With handles on both sides, these are easier to hold, because they allow you to spread their weight between both hands.
Rocking T knife. Designed so that you need less strength and dexterity to use it, this knife applies pressure directly above the food to be cut. Another plus: You can use the knife with one hand.
Milk carton holder. Used with a half-gallon carton, this holder provides a plastic handle that makes it easier to hold and pour milk.
Wash mitt. Use the same type of terry cloth or mesh mitt you use in the shower to make washing dishes and kitchen clean-up easier.
Reacher. This is basically a long stick (it may scope or fold) with a gripper or suction cups on one end, and it can extend your reach by 2 or 3 feet. Use it to retrieve lightweight items from high cupboard shelves or to pick up items from the floor without bending over.
Tip: Many items you already have around the house can spare painful fingers - and save your energy - in the kitchen. For example, you can use a nutcracker to loosen bottle tops, and put a thick rubber band around a jar lid to improve your grip.
Other items that can make cooking easier include electric blenders, knives, can openers, and potato peelers. For serving a meal, nothing beats paper plates. Not only are they lighter than regular plates, but you don’t need to clean them.
When You Shop
Reachers. Take yours with you to help retrieve items from high shelves at the store. For heavy or breakable items, though, ask a store employee or another shopper for help.
Motorized shopping carts. Many stores have them. You can sit while you cruise the aisles. If the store doesn't have them, use a shopping cart, even if you only need a few things, to spare your hands and energy. You’ll have something to lean on, too.
Shopping bags. Reusable ones can be easier on your hands and wrists than plastic grocery bags. Have the bagger fill them halfway. To carry the bags, slide them over your forearms so your hands are free. Cross your arms and hold them close to your body to lighten the load on your shoulder and elbows.
Tip: When you buy things online, you don't need to park your car, make your way through crowded stores, or carry heavy packages. Another plus: If you shop for gifts on the Internet, you can have them sent directly to the recipient, which gets rid of the hassle of wrapping and shipping.
For Your Car
Whether it's getting in or and out of the car or spending time in the driver's seat, driving can tough with RA. The following assistive devices can improve things a bit:
Key holder. A wide one can make it easier to open doors and turn on the ignition. If you're buying a new car, look for one with keyless entry and ignition.
Beaded seat cover. These are available in some automotive and medical supply stores. They make it simpler to get in and out of your seat and make rides more comfortable.
Panoramic or wide-angle rear and side-view mirrors. If a painful, stiff neck makes it hard to turn your head, these easy-to-install mirrors can widen your view.
Seatbelt extender. This device attaches to your seatbelt and makes the seatbelt easier to grasp, pull, and buckle.
Tip: If you're shopping for a new car, look for features that will make driving easier and more comfortable with arthritis. Some to consider:
- Leather seats, which are easier to slide in and out of than upholstered seats
- Power window and seat controls
- Heated seats, which can soothe sore hips and lower backs
- Running boards, which make it easier to climb in and out
- Larger, easier-to-grip steering wheels
Just for Fun
With a little effort and craftiness, you can find or modify products that can help you keep doing your favorite hobbies and activities. Assistive devices like these can help:
- Kneelers and lightweight hoses for gardening
- Book stands for hands-free reading
- Large, easy-to-hold playing cards and electric shufflers for card games
- Equipment such as automated ball-teeing devices and ball retrieval aids for golf
- Light-weight spring-operated scissors for crafts
- Automatic needle threaders for needle work