Living in a Rheumatoid Arthritis Friendly House
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one disease but it affects all of us a bit differently. This is important because there are no cookie-cutter answers for how to adapt your space to make life easier.
Instead, it is an individual problem-solving exercise. This is why, when thinking about making your house more RA-friendly, it helps to start with a few questions.
How and where to start
Which of my joints prevent me from being functional? When I think about my house, where do I spend the most time? Are there particular rooms or areas in my house that are harder to organize, clean, or use?
The answers to these questions will help you to figure out where to start.
Individual needs for your home
For example, living alone, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. My kitchen is small and not RA-friendly, as I have a lot of corner cabinets that seem to become a Bermuda Triangle for my pots and pans. And, most of my other cabinets are higher than is comfortable for me.
Ideally, I’d remodel my kitchen, and if you have a space like I’m describing, a remodel would be the first choice.
But, if like me, you don’t have a lot of extra money for expensive household projects, you will need to find ways to make your space work better.
Areas where you spend the most time
So, I’ve learned how to organize the space I have to keep the things I use most often in easier-to-reach places, so I don’t have to bend, stretch, and twist uncomfortably every time I boil an egg.
Focusing on the areas that you spend the most time will help with not getting too overwhelmed. Thinking about the parts of your body that are the most affected will help you figure out which arthritis aides may benefit you the most.
Tips to create an RA-friendly home
Armed with that information, let me give you some specific ideas for the different rooms in your house that might make your life easier.
Put your most used items in easy to reach places, and store pantry items in categories, i.e. baking, pasta/rice, beans, etc.
Purchase appliances that make cooking and cleaning easier. For example, I have an Instapot that I use almost every time I cook because it is a one-pot meal and makes clean up easier.
Find things that decrease the stress on your hands as you cook: a good knife, a u-shaped peeler, an automatic can opener, spring-loaded scissors, a jar opener, as well as lightweight cups, plates, and bowls are just a few ideas.
You need a good seating option that will offer you comfortable support and isn’t too low to the ground.
If you sink into your chair enough that when you look at your knees and they are higher than your hips, your chair is too low.
I had black-out blinds installed in my bedroom to help me sleep and I highly recommend them. Is your bed too high or too low?
Over time, this will wear on your body, especially since the first thing in the morning can be the toughest time to move.
Pump bottles for shampoo, conditioner, and soap will decrease the strain on your hands, as will a toothbrush with a wider circumference handle.
The bathroom is the room in the house where most falls occur so make sure that your shower has non-skid strips or a bath mat. Also, grab bars can help eliminate falls - I have two.
Helps from an occupational therapist
This is by no means a complete list, and if you find yourself already overwhelmed, you have the option of asking for an occupational therapist (OT) consult from your doctor. OTs are trained to help with modifying home spaces; if you go that route, you will be happy you did.
If not, I hope that I gave you a tip or two that helps make your life easier!
Did you have difficulty receiving a RA diagnosis?