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Assistive Devices to The Rescue

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.

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 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.

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.

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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • mcadwell
    1 year ago

    I’ve been able to solve the majority of “problems” but there is one I can’t figure out. I have pain in all the major joints, hands/feet, and lower back. I have to find an easier way to take my bedsheets off and put them back on.

    I have a head board and foot board. In the winter I use (in order) a fitted bottom sheet, top sheet, electric blanket and comforter, which is a lot of walking, bending and stretching to straighten out and tuck in those things.

    Those zipper fitted sheets are a moot point. I’ve thought about a duvet but I’d still have to tuck in the electric blanket and would need a top sheet between that and me so a duvet really won’t help (not to mention fiddling with taking off the cover for washing and then putting that back on). I’m really stuck here.

    Guess what I’m really asking for is ideas on easier ways to get them on the bed, so they’re even on both sides, and ways of tucking them in. I can’t afford a different bed frame at this time.

    If anyone has any ideas, I would be eternally grateful if you shared them. Thank you VERY MUCH!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi mcadwell, really good question and I wish I had some ideas for you. I gave up on being able to put sheets on the bed a long time ago. Before I met my husband and he took over this duty, I had someone help with cleaning and would ask them to do it for me. It just took too much energy for me. Feel free to ask on the Facebook page–maybe some other folks have some tips? Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • RAWarrior
    4 years ago

    My favorite is my electric jar opener. I have many jar and bottle openers devices but the electric is the one I resort to when nothing else will work! It mounts under an upper kitchen cabinet.

    My next favorite is having changed al the doorknobs in my house to levers. (I just wish all public restrooms had door handle and faucet levers.)

    I also want to say that Kelly – I wish you find a medication or combination of meds that helps you be more mobile without assistance. I was in your place a couple of decades ago and have now been in remission for 6+ years and able to walk 2 miles at a time – on Orencia. I wish the same for you!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for suggesting the electric jar opener! That’s a great tip. 🙂 I also love lever doorknobs and so appreciate them. Really glad that more places are using lever handles on doors and for faucet levers. Thanks so much for the well wishes–really appreciate your kind words. Hope your remission keeps going and that you continue to do well!

  • Luzille
    4 years ago

    I also use carts at stores but I don’t shop very much. On bad days I use riding cart at the grocery store, especially if I’ll be buying more than the 10 items or less.

    I like to use a stainless steel mug cup/mug with a handle. It helps to slip the mug over my hand and let that carry most of the weight.

    My husband made me a beautiful foot rest at just the perfect height for my work office. As a result I can elevate my feet as needed during the day.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks Luzille! Some good tips there. I love that your husband got crafty in making you a foot rest. I am fortunate that my husband does those kinds of things for me too. 🙂

  • Richard Faust moderator
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the comment Luzille. Sounds like you have some good work-arounds. I appreciate your husband making assistance items. I try to do this for Kelly (full disclosure: I’m the author, Kelly Mack’s husband). Thought you might be interested in this article with tips from the community on chores and errands: Best to you!

    Richard ( Team)

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