Getting dressed, brushing your teeth, eating a meal — you do these things every day. But people with arthritis often struggle with these everyday activities.
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Often, simple tweaks make these tasks easier to manage, and there is a world of adaptive products designed for people with arthritis. Start with the following tips for an easier daily routine.
In the kitchen
1. Open up: If you have arthritis in your hands, opening a jar presents a challenge. For mild cases, a rubber jar-opening grip helps by adding traction. If that doesn’t do the trick, consider buying a specialized opener for jars, cans and other containers.
2. Get a grip: If you love to cook, pots and pans with soft grips and longer handles may ease the process. Likewise, if you have trouble handling silverware, adaptive utensils with thicker handles make it easier to enjoy your home-cooked meals.
In the bathroom
“That big, cushy recliner might look inviting, but it may do more harm than good. A chair that is too soft aggravates symptoms in your back.”
Scott Burg, DO
Department of Rheumatologic and Immunologic Disease
3. Elevate your seat: For many — especially those with knee, hip and back issues — getting on and off the toilet is a daily challenge. Solutions range from elevated seats that add height to a toilet to powered toilet lifts if you need the extra help.
4. Go electric: Electric toothbrushes have fatter, easier-to-grip handles than traditional ones. They also do much of the brushing work for you, which is helpful if you have shoulder problems. Similarly, electric razors make shaving easier and may reduce the nicks and cuts you get from shaving with achy, unsteady hands.
5. Shower smart: If you have trouble getting in and out of the shower or fear falls, try installing rails or using an adjustable shower chair. Other, simpler changes can help, too. For example, liquid soap is easier to handle than bars. You can even add an automatic dispenser to your shower.
6. Try wiping alternatives: Nobody wants to talk about toilet hygiene, but it’s important. Patients often tell me arthritis prevents them from getting properly clean, which leads to irritation. One alternative: Buy rolled cotton, and break off pieces to use when wiping. Cotton feels more tactile than toilet paper, and you can moisten it for better cleaning. Just remember: Don’t flush it, or you will have plumbing work to do.
In the living room
7. Firm up your seat: That big, cushy recliner might look inviting, but it may do more harm than good. A chair that is too soft aggravates symptoms in your back, for example. And when you sink into a chair, it’s harder to get back up. Shop for a firm chair that’s high enough for you to get in and out easily. Powered chairs can give you a boost back up, if needed.
8. Add doorknob handles: If turning traditional, rounded doorknobs is a strain, consider getting adapters. These fit over doorknobs and include a lever mechanism that requires only a push rather than a turn.
In the dressing room
9. Slip into your shoes: For many of my patients, putting on shoes is the toughest part of getting dressed. Tiny, traditional shoehorns don’t cut it. But like gardening and cleaning tools, you can buy shoehorns with long handles (two to three feet). Using these long handles eliminates the need to bend and struggle.
10. Zip up: Because zippers and buttons on clothing are so small, they are difficult to maneuver if you’re dealing with swollen, inflamed joints. Consider buying a multi-use dressing tool, which helps pull zippers shut and even slip buttons into place.
The above are just a few examples among many. The Arthritis Foundation offers information and even consumer testing on such adaptive products, and your doctor can make specific recommendations based on your needs.