Do you find yourself struggling with tasks that used to be simple? Have you ever stayed in pj’s simply because putting on clothes sounded like too much work? Cursed and cried in frustration when you couldn’t get anything open to quench your thirst? Panicked when you couldn’t open your own front door? If you live with chronic inflammatory arthritic conditions, you likely have experienced one or all of the above as your previously agile joints become cranky and uncooperative, I certainly have. The struggle to do the simplest tasks can become very real, and very frustrating.
Luckily, we live in age chock full of gadgets and aids that help make everyday tasks simpler. From bathing to dressing, cooking, cleaning, driving, and everything in between the number of clever gadgets to help get things done is truly baffling. Since it would be impossible to cover them all, let’s start with the ones that solve the most common issues arthritis patients struggle with.
Bathing and Dressing-
An area people with arthritis often struggle with is self-care tasks, like bathing and dressing. Luckily, there are a wide variety of tools that can help with the special challenges these tasks present. Look for wide handled and long handled brushes, combs, bath sponges and even lotion applicators. This is also where you will find my second most used tool, the dressing stick. Handy for taking off and putting on clothes, along with dozens of other tasks around the house (like fishing laundry out of the bottom of the washer), I’ve got these in every area of my house.
Because it is foolish (and sometimes dangerous) to waste all your energy standing in the shower, a shower chair is a wonderful energy saving item to have in your bathroom. On days when balance or a crabby body part are making standing up extra challenging, they also can make the difference between worth it to take a shower and not. A second seat somewhere outside the shower can also be a big help, giving you a place to rest while you groom and dress/undress.
If reaching your feet has become a struggle, stop fighting it and grab a sock helper. I prefer a soft, flexible one because I don’t have to struggle to pull the sock onto the tool. While you are searching for tools to help dress those feet, be sure to pick up a long-handled shoehorn, to take the struggle out of putting on shoes. (Handy for pushing off socks or leggings as well, I own 3!)
Around the house
Keeping up with household tasks can be a struggle, with or without arthritis in the picture. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of children and animals, there is a massive amount of work that goes into cleaning up from daily life. If you are also physically struggling to do all of the things, it can start to feel completely impossible to keep up. Luckily, we humans have invented handy tools and gadgets to help out with most of the day to day household things we all have to get done. Because it would literally fill a book to share all of the amazing (and sometimes odd) inventions out there that can make household tasks easier, let’s focus on a few that solve the most common arthritis struggles.
First up, bottle and can openers. Let’s face it, getting into some food and drink packaging when you have arthritic hands feels like an impossible task. If you’ve ever struggled to get into a bottle of water just to give up, it is probably time to invest in a few handy bottle openers. Look for one that opens a variety of sizes of bottle and has a nice chunky grip to hold onto. While shopping for items to help you bust into bottles, do yourself a favor and grab an electric can opener too. Your wrists will thank you.
Next up, the most used item in my house, for gaining access to everything from food to deliveries, is scissors. Seriously, these are scattered throughout my house, car and purse. Look for big chunky handles for better control and easier grip.
Speaking of grips, when it comes to improving your ability to get things done in the kitchen, considering the handles of your most used tools is a great place to start to make some simple changes. Either replacing spoons, knives, and other utensils for models with chunky handles, or using handle adapters that come in a variety of sizes and styles to accommodate whatever kind of hand grip you have to work with, can make kitchen tasks both simpler and safer.
Continuing the handle theme, simplify cleaning tasks by grabbing long handled tools. Scrub brushes, dusters, and mops with long chunky handles can help take some of the bending and stretching out of daily chores, easing the impact on your cranky body. Not a tool, but a change of attack, choosing to sit while you work is another great way to reduce the toll of cleaning and cooking.
Better than doing it yourself, there are also a ton of products on the market that will do the job for you! With both wet and dry versions now available from several manufacturers, floor cleaning robots are perhaps some of the more popular of these items. Stand mixers, food processors, peelers, grinders, juicers, scrubbers, vacuums…whatever the task you are trying to do, chances are there is a gadget for that.
Since RA can flare up in any of the 360 joints in the body, 60 of which are in your feet…it is no surprise that walking and general mobility can become a challenge. Luckily, there are plenty of things out there to help with walking, balance, or even a lift to get you where you need to go. At the top of my list is my handy collapsible walking stick, great for helping me balance on rough terrain, but also a huge help when even flat surfaces are a challenge to walk on. Paired with a lightweight, portable tripod stool for taking a break along the way, it also helps me get farther on my expeditions. Other options include canes and forearm crutches, both of which reside in my emergency mobility tool stash. Great for longer outings, balance and a seat on the go, rollator walkers are another extremely handy mobility device. Having a rolling seat with you can seriously improve the experience of a long shopping trip!
If your arthritis has progressed to the point that walking with assistance is just too painful, consider picking up a wheelchair or electric ride on device of some sort. Not only for those who cannot walk at all, these handy ride on tools can make getting around simpler and allow you to go on much longer trips and excursions.
One of the keys to living a full, able life with RA and other arthritic conditions is to lean on the available tools that make getting things done simpler. The energy saved not struggling to do the little things, is a precious resource, especially when you have a limited supply for the day. Leaning into arthritis tools means you will be able to do more, also precious when life can be a struggle. What tools do you find most valuable in day-to-day life with RA? I’d love to hear about the handy gadgets that help you get things done!
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