Assistive Devices for Arthritis

Assistive Devices for Arthritis

Assistive Devices and Safety Tips for Arthritis Patients at Home

Living with arthritis can make everyday chores challenging and painful. However, there are certain assistive devices and changes you can make around your home to help you move around more easily and safely. These tools not only provide independence but also significantly alleviate the pain associated with arthritis.

According to Carole Dodge, an occupational therapist with the University of Michigan’s School of Medicine, “When you have to do the same task every day or very frequently, the small changes or tools that allow independence become significant.” Therefore, it is important to identify the tasks that are particularly challenging for you and find tools that specifically assist with those tasks. If you need assistance in choosing the right tools, consider meeting with an occupational therapist experienced in working with people who have arthritis.

Here are some recommended assistive devices, safety tips, and mobility aids that can help you manage your arthritis at home:

Self-Help Tools for Your Home

There are numerous assistive gadgets available at hardware or home goods stores, as well as online. The suitability of these tools depends on the location and severity of your arthritis. Below are some suggestions:

  • Extended-handle tools: These tools can help you pick up items from the floor, reach high shelves, and clean more easily.
  • Lightweight appliances: Opt for vacuum cleaners or mops that are easier to maneuver, reducing stress on your joints.
  • Touch-activated light switches: Gentler on your hands and fingers, these switches can replace regular knobs and switches.
  • Lever handles: Replace door and sink knobs with lever handles to alleviate the need for finger gripping.
  • Foam pipe insulation: Wrap this around tool handles to provide a more comfortable grip, reducing effort and pain.
  • Spring-loaded scissors: These scissors make cutting easier.

In the kitchen, consider using pots and pans with two handles, electric appliances like can openers or food processors, non-skid gripper mats, and carts with wheels to move heavy items.

In the bedroom, gadgets like zipper pulls and button hooks, clothes with Velcro fasteners, and shoe and sock aids can assist with dressing.

In the bathroom, a bath stool, bath mitts, electric toothbrush, dental floss holder, and grab bars can enhance safety and ease daily routines.

Tips to Prevent Slips and Falls

Arthritis, especially in the knees or hips, can increase the risk of falls and fractures. To minimize the chances of falling at home, follow these tips:

  • Remove throw rugs: Rugs can pose a tripping hazard, especially if you use a walker or cane.
  • Improve lighting: Ensure all rooms and staircases are well-lit, particularly at night. Install lights that shine on steps for added safety.
  • Have handrails by steps: Install handrails both indoors and outdoors to provide support while navigating stairs.
  • Think twice about ladders: If you need to climb, use a stable step stool with a wide base and a handle for balance.
  • Clean up spills: Promptly clean any spills to avoid walking on slippery surfaces.
  • Other safety measures: Consider installing an adjustable transfer bench, grab bars around bathtubs and toilets, a raised toilet seat, and non-skid mats or strips in the shower or tub. Keep the floor free of clutter.

Mobility Devices and More

If walking becomes painful due to arthritis, consider consulting a physical therapist for a comprehensive evaluation. A physical therapist can not only provide pain relief but also design a customized exercise program, recommend mobility aids, and anticipate future needs. Some mobility aids that a physical therapist might suggest include:

  • Cane: Effective for reducing stress on the affected hip, knee, or foot. Ensure your physical therapist is aware if you have a systemic type of arthritis that affects your hands.
  • Crutches: Offer more support than a cane, with forearm crutches providing greater stability.
  • Walker: Suitable for individuals with joint problems in both lower extremities and difficulty balancing. Walkers can be adjusted to minimize stress on shoulders, elbows, hands, and wrists.
  • Knee brace: There are various types of knee braces available to align the knee, reduce pain, aid in post-surgery healing, and provide a sense of support.
  • Air splint: Used to prevent ankle flexing or rolling, particularly during arthritis flare-ups.
  • Shoe inserts: Slip these inserts into your shoes to ease foot pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.
  • Orthopedic shoes: Customized shoes that offer additional support for deformities caused by arthritis.

By incorporating these assistive devices and safety measures into your daily life, you can tackle everyday tasks more comfortably and improve your overall quality of life, reducing discomfort and enhancing independence. Remember to consult with healthcare professionals, such as occupational therapists and physical therapists, for personalized guidance and recommendations.