For people with rheumatoid arthritis, painful flare-ups can make opening a door or getting dressed a daunting struggle.
"The number-one tool that one needs during a flare, by far, is this word called autonomy," says Nortin Hadler, MD, a professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It means the ability to pace the day and choose activities."
Next on the list, Dr. Hadler says: assistive equipment to help you accomplish daily tasks. Here are 14 household tools to make life easier when pain strikes.
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Get a lift
If you have knee pain, raising your seat by a few inches can make all the difference. You won't have to bend your knees as much to sit down, which will make it a lot easier to get back up, Dr. Hadler explains.
Specially designed pads, like the Sissel Sitfit Plus ($40; sisselshop.com), make it easy to retrofit chairs for more comfortable seating.
For more of a lift, there's Upeasy's Power Seat ($116; amazon.com) and Seat Assist ($130; amazon.com) (electric and nonelectric, respectively), which will give you a gentle push on your way up. They can be used with pretty much any chair or sofa, and they're portable.
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Raise the throne
The same applies for toilet seats, which can be a major challenge to navigate when knee pain strikes. There are a number of raised seats you can buy to adapt standard toilets, some of which come with arms.
You’ll want to make sure the seat is installed securely to avoid slippage. Other things to consider: ease of cleaning and installation.
The Etac Hi-Loo With Brackets ($45; medicaleshop.com) received high ratings from Amazon users in all these categories, and it can be used with elongated or standard bowls.
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Standard, skinny, swivel vegetable peelers are uncomfortable for pretty much everyone to use, not just people with chronic pain, says Dr. Hadler.
There are several nifty new peelers on the market with large handles that make the job of peeling potatoes, carrots, and other fruits and veggies much less difficult.
Rachael Ray's vegetable peeler ($8; homedepot.com)features a big, comfy handle, a brush for cleaning potatoes, and even a point at the end for digging out potato eyes. And it comes in bright colors, so it's easy to spot in your kitchen drawer.
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Slicing and dicing
Several types of knives are available with handles and blades specially designed for people with limited mobility and strength.
Dexter's DuoGlide knives ($28;
webstaurantstore.com) feature large, soft handles that can be held in several different positions for better control, along with ultra-thin, ultra-sharp stainless steel blades.
After testing the knives independently, the Arthritis Foundation awarded them its ease-of-use commendation.
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You have several options if you're looking for help with opening jars or cans. The simply designed Evriholder Easi-Twist Jar Opener ($6; amazon.com) can be used for jars of any size.
For cans, this Oxo steel can opener ($19; amazon.com) has large handles and runs with a jumbo-size, easy-to-turn knob.
Oxo also has a Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener ($22; bedbathandbeyond.com) with a similar large knob, and pliers to keep the lid from falling into the can after itâs removed; even better, itâs dishwasher safe.
Hand-washing is recommended for the steel version.
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Dull, poorly designed scissors are unacceptable and unusable if you're in pain. If you're willing to spend a little more, Fiskars offers dozens of ergonomically designed, super-sharp shears ($33; fiskars.com) that make cutting paper and fabric a much more pleasant proposition.
They look nice, too. Several of Fiskars’ products have also won the thumbs-up from the Arthritis Foundation for ease of use. Its products include pruners and clippers for the yard and garden, squeeze punches in dozens of different shapes for crafters, and scissors for cutting paper and fabric.
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Getting a grip
Securely installed grip bars are a must for getting safely in and out of the bathtub.
If you don't always need the help, there are portable versions that you can install as needed; these are also useful for travel. Bridge Medical makes a single-grip bar ($70; bridge-medical.com), as well as a telescoping pivot-grip grab bar ($125; bridge-medical.com) that can be installed at a variety of angles.
Grip bars for permanent installation tend to be considerably less expensive. Several websites sell a huge variety of grab bars; some, like Mr. Grab Bar, even offer installation.
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Long-handled brushes and combs can be extremely helpful if you have pain in your shoulders, arms, or hands that makes using regular hair-grooming aids difficult.
WrightStuff.biz offers a 12-inch or 14-inch handle brush and comb set ($27; wrightstuff.biz). (Each comb and brush can also be bought individually.)
The handles are designed to be antislip, and both the brush and comb are curved to conform to the head.
The company also sells long-handled hair and body washers, and a long-handled back scrubber.
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There are a variety of devices out there to help extend your reach, in several different sizes and at prices ranging from $10 to $100 or more.
The more expensive versions have special features such as grips or magnets capable of picking up coins—take the Ableware Omnigrip Reacher ($63; allegromedical.com). And some, like the Ableware Vee-Zee C5 Reacher ($185; allegromedical.com), can be operated without moving the fingers.
The Alligetter Reacher Grabber ($20; wrightstuff.biz), with an LED light mounted at the tip, may come in handy if you’re searching for something small in a hard-to-reach place.
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Help in the bathroom
If a flare-up makes even wiping yourself difficult, there are devices that can extend your reach and help you maintain your independenceand privacy.
The Ergonomic Easywipe ($30; drugstore.com) has a soft silicone end where you can attach toilet paper, with a button that releases the tissue when you’re done.
There’s also a compact version ($52; sears.com) with a carrying case that you can keep in a purse or pocket.
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Dine with dignity
When you have arthritic fingers, everyday tasks, such as eating your dinner, can be painful and difficult. You may need knives, forks and spoons with handles that are easy to grip and won't slip out of your hands.
These eating utensils from Good Grips ($9 each; arthritissupplies.com) fit the bill with large, cushioned handles made of a rubber-like material. Each utensil has a metal shaft that can twist in any direction, making it easy to hold in a position that's comfortable to you.
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Write it down
When you have little to no strength in your fingers, it can be awkward or nearly impossible to do simple tasks like signing checks and writing grocery lists.
For an ergonomic, no-grip pen that uses the weight of your hand to press ink to paper, try PenAgain ($7; arthritissupplies.com). The unique wishbone shape is designed to reduce stress and the risk of repetitive injury by placing your hand in a more comfortable position when you write.
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Open the door
Door knobs can be slippery and hard to grasp even for people who don't have a weak grip. To avoid frustration, try swapping them out for door levers with a smooth, thick handle that's easy to turn.
For a cheaper solution, you can opt for Great Grips Doorknob Grippers ($13; wrightstuff.biz). They are made of a soft material that stretches to fit over round doorknobs, making them comfortable to hold. The two small levers on the sides make it easy to open doors with a finger, a closed fist or even an elbow.
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Organize your pills
When you have to take a variety of medications daily, a good pill organizer makes it easier to prepare and schedule your dosage well ahead of time, and avoid confusion about missing doses.
Spare your fingers by choosing an easy-open, push button pill organizer from Ezy-dose, which is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation. Each compartment has a rounded scoop bottom, making it easily to remove your pills. They have a design to fit your every need, such as 7-day, AM/PM, and XL versions (amazon.com).
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