Assistive Devices to the Rescue
Frankly, I think assistive devices are awesome. They help me out every day. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of my assistive devices. On the contrary, human ingenuity invented them so that they could be useful tools!
I use a wheelchair to help transport me through my day, including commuting to work. Sometimes I use a walker at home, especially to do my exercises. Others may us a cane.
For me, ambulatory aids support my joints and help me save energy. I don’t have the stamina or the joint health to walk distances much longer than a few feet. In many ways, my wheelchair is my most crucial tool for not only daily living activities but also to work.
Using assistive devices at work
My employment is in an office and includes significant time at the computer. I can use a regular keyboard and mouse, but in the past have liked having a phone headset to reduce the strain of holding a handset. Voice controls are constantly improving and could be useful to me in the future for minimizing my typing time.
Since I sit in a wheelchair fitted to me, I don’t need to worry about my chair and positioning for a day of work. However, I do think it is very important to consider and plan. I put in some time to figure out the best positioning for my keyboard, and would advise others with rheumatoid arthritis to take care to adjust your seat, back support, and arm support to alleviate any strain on your joints. In my case, it’s far too easy to go too long without standing or warming my joints. It’s something I struggle with—to periodically stand or stretch and use my joints.
With my limited arm reach, I find a reacher tool helpful for my daily activities. I use it to grab objects or, more frequently, to hit elevator buttons. Another tool has a pinching function that can be used by pulling a handle, which is helpful for picking up objects.
Kitchen-related assistive devices
Kitchen-related assistive devices have been helpful for a long time. For example, a device, which can be used for opening jars, that closes over a cap and has a big handle. I like gadgets with large handles, such as pepper grinders or even knives.
My favorite knife has a handle that stands up, which relieves pressure on my wrist. I even have special scissors that are easier to use if you lack hand strength.
Making everyday tasks a bit easier
I fundamentally believe in evolution and that humans have brains for the purpose of inventing tools and solutions to challenges they encounter. This has been a great attitude to have throughout my life with RA because it means that I approach a problem as having a solution—it’s just a matter of finding the right tool.
For example, I cannot put on my own socks and struggled with this until I found a sock tool where I slide a sock over a curved piece of plastic tied to a rope. I slip my foot in, hold the rope and pull it until the plastic slides out—leaving the sock pulled up my leg. It took me awhile to find the right tool for me, and I have to admit that some tasks are not always worth the effort.
Every problem has a solution
But the point, to me, is that every problem has a solution—it’s all about finding or inventing the right tool for that particular challenge and person. I was lucky that when I was younger and living with RA and trying to navigate a world of challenges, I was encouraged in my creativity and was able to even help create devices for my specific limitations.
Don’t let your frustrations get you down. If you encounter a problem, think about what could possibly help you solve it and work with others to either find it or have it made. You never know, it may help others as well!
Has having RA put a hold on your ambitions?