Healthy Living

How Assistive Devices Can Help Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis

How Assistive Devices Can Help Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Since the chronic nature of rheumatoid arthritis is often painful, you may be curious about assistive devices. These devices make your day easier. There have been many gains in technology, allowing for new robotics, innovative solutions, and automated tasks. While we often think of these gains as an economic advantage, they also can be used to help those with limitations.

Introduction to Assistive Devices

If you have RA, simple and daily tasks may be challenging. Lifting items, bending down, opening a can, and other tasks might evoke pain, while an ordinary person may seamlessly go about their day. This makes having any sort of help a vital option. By nature, we like to be independent. You may have difficulty asking for help because you don’t want to burden your family. You also may struggle because you live alone, and do not have anyone that can help you. Whatever is the case, assistive devices can help you. Luckily, there have been many developments in science and engineering. These devices can help with exactly what you need.

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Types of Devices

There are many types of devices to help with everyday tasks. These include tools for the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. To help you get dressed in the morning, there are zipper pulls and button aids. Clothing with Velcro fasteners also exist. Tying shoes is notoriously difficult for sufferers of this disease. As such, having a long-handled shoehorn helps with reach and tying your shoes. These options are handy and inexpensive, but can make the mornings go quicker. Getting ready in the bathroom can also be a hassle. There are several adaptive tools there as well. Having hand rails in the shower can help you not strain yourself or slip. Faucet levers can eliminate the trouble with turning knobs. You may want to consider a raised toilet seat. This eliminates any bending from a traditional seat. All of these can eliminate some pain, as well as save time as you are rushing to work or to taking the kids to school.

Since cooking presents all kinds of challenges, there are several products that are useful. A food processor can help with cutting vegetables. Another everyday helpful kitchen tool is an electric can opener. This tool is not much more expensive that a traditional can opener, but can save you unnecessary pain. Knives have also been adapted to meet the needs of rheumatoid arthritis patients. This includes the mezzaluna, which is a rocking knife with easy gripping features. A stand mixer adds comfort for those trying to bake. A fixed jar opener can help with opening jars without having to strain your hands. There are many lightweight utensils and cooking tools out there.

Reach tools help by eliminating the need to stretch or bend down. This is helpful if you are getting a can at the back of a pantry or an item at the bottom of the freezer. Ergonomics have been applied to the kitchen as well. New products include ergonomically designed forks, spoons, and knives that are easier to hold. These adaptations will save you time and put the joy back into cooking.

Devices for Outside of the Home

Beyond the home, you probably feel pain doing other tasks. There have been some adaptations made for the office, chores, and leisure activities. When you are at the office, you need to be focused on work. You cannot be distracted by rheumatoid arthritis. There are several tools that can aid you in your quest for your professional goals while having this disease. The best way to assess your workspace is to start with your desk. Ensure that your desk is adjustable. Your chair should be an ergonomic chair with many options to adjust for your comfort. Telephones can have larger buttons. If you take a lot of conference calls, a headset is a good idea. Pick a larger sized pen with a bigger grip. This will help prevent straining your hands and fingers. An ergonomic keyboard is also a great idea, and they are widely available. This, in addition to ergonomic mice, will help keep your wrist in neutral postures.

Beyond the office, there are other adaptations as well. The car is another area that can be adapted. Wide key holders or cars with automatic startup systems can eliminate the problem of turning the key. Seats can be adapted to swivel. This will make getting out of the car easier. Gas openers can make it easier to remove and replace gas caps while filling your car at the pump.

When it comes to hobbies, gardening is an area that has assistive devices. These include padded portable benches, light-weight hoses, padded seats, and ergonomic trowels. Like kitchenware, ergonomic handles are available for clipping and pruning devices.

Creating your own Adaptations

Beyond current products, there are several ways to adapt your current home or lifestyle. This might look slightly different for everyone. Whether it is because you work in construction or enjoy knitting, there are ways to look out for the best options and products for your needs. If you are shopping, explain your needs to the salesperson. They are likely to think of new ideas or products in their area of specialty. Bring family members and friends into the loop as well. They may have ideas that you haven’t thought of yet.

This is also where a consultation with medical professionals can be helpful. Your best resource is likely a physical or occupational therapist. They can help improve your strength or range of motion. This will help them figure out the best tools. You will need to figure out different strategies. You can even reward yourself when you have achieved a goal. That will help keep you motivated and encouraged to find solutions. This can help you in your daily life.

Cost Concerns

Once concern you may have is cost. When many people think of adaptations, they think it is out of their price range. In many cases, the adaptations can be small. There is also a possibility that insurance could pick up part or all of the tab. At the very least, it is worth exploring. Talk to your doctor and insurance company. If there is a less expensive alternative to the original idea, they might know about it. Even if all the adaptations are not possible, there is a high likelihood that some assistive devices are better than having nothing. You might be able to space out purchases over time. Any improvement in your quality of life is worth it.

The Bottom Line

No matter where you are at or what task you are doing, there is a way to adapt. There are many more techniques out there than you might realize. Talk to your doctor about options that exist. It might also be helpful to see an occupational or physical therapist. These health professionals are experts at adapting tasks for those with limitations. They might be well versed in different techniques or products out there. Remember, there is no shame in adapting activities or asking for help. Conduct your own research as well. You might even come up with a new idea that can help yourself and others.


Donohue, M. (2017, July 12). Assistive Devices Make Life Easier for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved July 17, 2017, from