Try Our Household Shortcuts

These women found clever ways to outsmart RA.

Kathleen Engel

Is rheumatoid arthritis (RA) making activities like cooking and getting dressed annoying? These women felt the same way—so they got creative! Their smart solutions may inspire you to devise shortcuts for your own home.

If it comes precut, get it!
"When it comes to cooking, I spend a little more to save myself some effort," April Wells of Round Rock, TX, says. "I buy onions that are already chopped so I don't have to chop them myself. Same with carrots and peppers. I also by chopped garlic in oil—it keeps for months in the fridge. This costs more but pays for itself in less pain."

Open cabinets with ease.
"I changed the hardware so that instead of knobs on the cabinets I have handles," says April. "That way I can just slide my hand in or else use a wooden spoon or spatula to get the door open. It's much easier!"

Take breaks with an ice pack.
"It's hard for me to grip the pan when I cook," explains Gail Michalski of Mansfield, TX. "So when I start to feel pain, I stop and lay my hand and wrist on an ice pack. Just a few minutes helps a lot and then I can go back to cooking!"

Relax and take a load off.
"Most of the time I take showers, but sometimes it's just easier to soak in a hot tub," notes April. "And I've learned that I can kick the plug with my foot instead of turning it with my hand. That way I don't have to bend over or use my fingers."

Use soap and shampoo dispensers.
"Dispensers are priceless—no more fumbling to grasp bottles or fighting to uncap products," says Niki Wyre of Clearwater, FL. "I use a hands-free soap dispenser so I don't have to pump. I also keep shampoo, conditioner and gel soap in a shower dispenser that has three compartments. I even found a toothpaste dispenser!"

Keep beauty products here.
"I have a basket on my counter in the bathroom where I keep the products I use every day, like toothpaste, hairspray and a hairbrush," says Gail. "I keep a smaller basket for makeup next to it—everything is handy and I don't have to open up any drawers or cabinets."

Dress up to feel your best.
"I've learned that it's very important to socialize with other people, and when I go out I want to look nice," says Diane. "I've lost a lot of my hair, so now I wear wigs. I also make sure to wear makeup and earrings, even if my husband has to help me put them on! This definitely makes me feel better about myself. When I look good, I feel good."

Match your shoes to your mood.
"I have slip-ons for days when I'm not feeling great, but they can still be tricky to get on," says Susan Violante of Austin, TX. "So I keep an extra-long shoehorn I found at a drugstore. It's so long I don't have to bend over at all."

Take a cue from Fido!
"Instead of using a regular hair brush, I buy brushes in the pet store because the handles are more comfortable," notes April. "Some have a strap across the back, so you just have to slide your hand in and you don't have to grip it."

June 2014