RA-Friendly Fixes for Daily Living

Is rheumatoid arthritis making daily tasks painful? Try one of these smart shortcuts!

Beth Shapouri

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make dealing with household chores tough and even exhausting. But don't give in—get inventive! Try one of these smart solutions for everyday obstacles, all devised by folks living with RA.

Task: Opening doors, turning on lights

RA shortcut: Go for gadgets

"I have gadgets that do things for me," says Kelly Rouba from Hamilton, NJ. "I have an automatic garage door that I control by a remote, and an automatic garbage can that opens and closes when it senses me. I can control my lights, thermostat and doors—all from a touchpad, keychain or my computer!"

Task: Whipping up a meal

RA shortcut: Roll and hang

"I get most creative in the kitchen," says Laura Mokelke of Milwaukee. "I use my husband's desk chair on wheels to roll through the kitchen—it's higher up so I can reach things and I don't have to worry about standing for so long." Keeping things within easy grasp helps, too, Laura adds. "I have designed our kitchen so that the utensils are hanging on a rack. That way, I don't have to try to open cabinets or drawers when my hands are sore." Look for utensil racks at any kitchen supply store.

Task: Scrubbing the shower

RA shortcut: Grab a broom

"I almost fell inside the shower while scrubbing the tiles with a small brush, so I decided I wouldn't do that chore anymore," says Susan Violante of Austin, TX. "Then one weekend I was hosing down my patio so I could brush it clean with a broom. I realized I could do the same in the shower without having to bend over or even get into the tub!" Susan keeps a clean broom on hand, mists on some bathroom cleaner and uses the bristles at the end to get off shower soap scum. And remember to spray the cleanser and let it sit a few minutes to loosen the grime before scrubbing.

Task: Getting dressed in a hurry

RA shortcut: Reach for a hand

George Austin of Trumbull, CT, admits that when it comes to getting dressed, teamwork is sometimes necessary. "Thank goodness I have a good wife—she's been known to tie a tie for me!" But a specific part of getting ready in the morning can really slow George down—getting on his shoes. "I have slip-ons for days when I'm not feeling as great. But they can still be tricky to get on, so I keep an extra-long shoehorn. They're so long that you can use them without having to bend over at all." You can find them at a medical supply store or your local drugstore.

Task: Gripping the kitchen knife

RA shortcut: Make a utensil swap

"I'll use a pizza cutter to cut things such as sandwiches and other soft foods; it's easier to hold and move," says Kelly Tuckwiller of Lewisburg, WV. More importantly: "This also cuts down on chances to cut yourself," she says. "Not being able to get a good grip on the knife when your hands are stiff can be dangerous!"

July 2012