RA Loo Maneuvers

Last updated: April 2022

OK, this is something we’ve really got to talk about. Yes, it’s a bit awkward; it’s the kind of thing we usually don’t discuss in polite company. But if you’ve got rheumatoid disease, chances are you’ll find yourself facing it someday if you haven’t already. It’s how to cope when your hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder flares and you have to hit the loo.

RA can make using the bathroom awkward

There are few things less pleasant than trying to unbutton, unzip, and skin down a pair of tight jeans with the rheuma-dragon biting hard into one—or both!—hands, especially if you’re in a hurry.

I remember the first time it happened how relieved I was that I’d managed to tough the process out without actually having an accident!

But then I discovered that wiping myself also hurt like a you-know-what. And after that came the dismay when I had to pull those jeans back up, zip, and re-button them. I’ll admit it. I cried. Then I dried my eyes, squared my shoulders, and got on with my day. It’s what we do, isn’t it?

Of course, the synovial joints that reside above the waist aren’t the only ones RD targets. Using the loo is painful when the hips and knees flare, too. So, besides just toughing it out when we flare, how can we make using the loo a little less painful and traumatic?

Assistive devices to make bathroom visits with RA less painful

Although finding a cure would be the best answer, we’ve got to work with what we have. There are a whole array of assistive devices available that can help:

  • Dressing stick: A smart, simple, 24-inch stick with angled hooks that that can help you pull/push clothes on and off.
  • Toileting aids: These provide a place to wad and hold tissue at the end of an extended, curved stick.
  • Raised toilet seat: A heavy-duty plastic seat that fits over your regular toilet seat, raising it by several inches so you don’t need to flex painful hips or knees as much to sit.
  • Long handled bathing sticks with attached sponges to make bathing easier.
  • Long handled, angled combs and brushes.
  • Body washes, shampoos, and conditioners that don’t require rinsing,
  • Buttoning and zipping aids.
  • Sock aids.
  • Long-handled shoehorns.

…and so many more.

You can find all of these useful tools by searching online for “arthritis aids” or visiting your local drugstore or medical supplies store.

Just a note: There’s no shame in buying and keeping daily living tools like these on hand, even if you don’t need them every day. Don't be embarrassed! I have several of them, and while there are some I’ve never used—like the raised toilet seat—I’ve had this crap (sorry) disease long enough to know how unpredictable it is. Sometimes we can all use a helping hand.

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