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RA Loo Maneuvers

RA Loo Maneuvers

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.

When the rheuma-dragon bites, in awkward places

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 that can help 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.

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

Comments

  • MsKitty76
    3 weeks ago

    I don’t really have RA, but I do have DDD and arthritis. The DDD makes wiping a challenge, since it’s difficult to twist to do the deed. I found a cheap and easy fix several years ago that has worked for me. A $1 back scratcher from the dollar tree. Wrap toilet paper or a baby wipe around the scratchy end, and use that. It works for me. I had to get creative, because I live in a rural area without much in the way of assistive aids that I’m aware of. Plus, I am only 42, so the idea of getting something officially for that was beyond embarrassing in my 30s. This solution isn’t AS bad in my eyes. And it’s cheap! Lol

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Such an innovative idea. I may use this as my idea for RD hack of the month at my Arthritis Support Group.

  • MsKitty76
    6 days ago

    Thank you. It was a spur of the moment idea during a bad time with my back that inspired it. It’s been a lifesaver since!

  • Pamala
    1 month ago

    I purchased and had installed a newer toilet that is taller than the average toilet. I have also gotten a step for the shower, a cane to help getting up and down stairs, a desk chair made for taller people, a seat for the shower. All to make daily life easier with my RA.

  • Jo007
    2 months ago

    Having a stable chair in the bathroom (like a simple wooden dining chair) can be a good source of portable support if there is no rail, an extra surface just where you need it, and can make some aspects of dressing easier. I like it because it’s such a typical thing to find in a bathroom, esp. when sharing bathroom with others or away from home.

  • lynnpenn
    3 months ago

    I’ve not been diagnosed specifically with RA but I do have arthritis in both my thumbs (as well as other joints) and this story hits home! I told my doc I could hardly wipe my a$$ my thumbs hurt so bad. Have to laugh to keep from crying.

  • Cyd
    4 months ago

    Hey Wren, although I’m a regular reader on the site, I just came across this article. Thank you for addressing this sensitive subject – It’s good to know that other people also experience this dilemma, and also learn there are tools available to assist with the task!! I can’t tell you how often I sat “there” wondering, “what do other people do?” And now I know!! LOL

  • Jo Anna
    11 months ago

    This article… is on point. thank you. Thank you for writing it.

  • Wren moderator author
    11 months ago

    You’re welcome, Jo Anna! Thanks for taking a moment to comment. Be well!

  • MargieR
    1 year ago

    I’ve had RA for 48 years. With elbows that don’t straighten completely, my toileting routine has definitely been affected. I have found a bidet to be life-changing!! They aren’t expensive and easy to install. I’m amazed that I’ve never seen an arthritis site mention it as an aid.

  • Wren moderator author
    11 months ago

    What a greatt idea! I’ll have to look into that, MargieR. Bidets aren’t common here in the U.S., and I’ll be honest, I never even thought of one. Thanks for telling us about it!

  • Snowhillmom
    1 year ago

    I have written about the wonders of using a bidet, but I also have never seen bidets mentioned in articles written about RA.
    My only issue is when I travel, I can’t bring it along!

  • Wren moderator author
    11 months ago

    Darn, Snowhillmom! Next time I write an article on this delicate subject, I’ll definitely mention using a bidet. Thanks for commenting!

  • MissBeki
    1 year ago

    ok, fashion sense aside, if you want to conserve your hounts, especially hands and wrists, elastic wasted skirts or pants are a definite hoint and time saver. If you have had your wrist fused, like me, I spent 6 months before surgery learning to use my opposite hand, and good thing, because fused wrist won’t bend for bathroom tasks.

  • Wren moderator author
    11 months ago

    Wow, MissBeki! What a good thing you practiced before your surgery! Was this something your doctor/surgeon suggested, or did you think of doing it yourself (I doubt I would have–I’m not that smart!)? Thanks for mentioning it and for taking the time to comment!

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    1 year ago

    God, nobody comes up with alternative ways to do stuff and makeshift inventions like RA patients, right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve duct taped together sh*t to make a “get stuff stick.” At least that’s what I call it. The bathroom is no different. Especially when my hip hurts and I have to balance on one cheek while trying not to dunk myself but also not getting into that one position where my other hip hurts and makes it feel like it’s going to dislocate. LOL. It’s great to talk about these and other subjects that get rarely discussed.

  • Wren moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hi, Daniel Malito! It IS good to talk about these … sensitive … subjects. I found it much easier when I was in the 3rd grade, when potty jokes were all the rage. But like you said, when you have RD, you come up with all kinds of little things that help. Fortunately, there are all kinds of little things we can buy, too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  • WarriorKhalo
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for the article!
    It’s a hard subject to talk about, but it impacts so many of us.
    My favorite tool is a portable nozzle called a Hygienna that plugs into any water bottle to make a bidet. I use it at home because I can’t afford a bidet, and it pops into my purse when I leave my house. I never look funny if I take a water bottle into a bathroom. Also, it’s really helpful for those times when it’s too difficult for me shower. At least for now, I can preserve my privacy and independence.

  • Blue
    6 months ago

    Thanks,never heard of that. I’m finding one

  • Wren moderator author
    11 months ago

    What a fabulous idea, WarriorKhalo! I’ve never heard of a portable bidet before, but hey–live and learn. I just looked it up on Amazon and yep, there they are. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! 😀

  • mcadwell
    1 year ago

    I used one of those as well – they are so handy! Then I got an under the seat bidet. Not too expensive. It’s helpful if you have IBS too.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    1 year ago

    Thanks for sharing, @WarriorKhalo and so glad you enjoyed the article. All the best, Monica

  • jashlock
    2 years ago

    I have multiple family members with rheumatoid Arthritis. The bathroom has been a constant topic of conversation. On a recent trip to japan I discovered electric toilet seats. I bought a pottyspa seat for my aunt and she loves it! No more wiping. The dressing stick seems interesting and will look into this as well. Thanks!!

  • Jo J
    2 years ago

    If you can swing it, have an ADA height toilet installed – it’s great! They are available at home improvement stores and can be affordable. I got mine at Costco and my husband installed it.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 years ago

    I am relatively lucky that my schedule accomodates my bathroom “needs”. Here, I’m talking clothes. I don’t wear hard bottoms (with zips or buttons) in the house, just pj pants, so I don’t have the issue of trying to get out of my clothes. This being said, I am able to use the restroom before work and not have to worry about it. Otherwise, I wear yoga pants that pass for nice slacks. Also, scrub pants because no one ever tells off someone wearing scrubs!

    I know most don’t have this kind of “luxury” so this is a great article!! I never thought I’d think wearing pj pants was a luxury!

  • belindabe
    2 years ago

    Someone had to mention it, I suppose, but was Wren really facing all the challenges? If a person is lucky enough to have only RA then this article is useful.

    I struggle at the commode with a splint on my dominant hand, and an insulin pump that creates a hazard of tubes and is connected to both my waistband and my stomach.

    Maybe I belong in a different forum.

  • jashlock
    2 years ago

    See my most recent comment! This seat could really be useful for you! Best wishes!

  • thegallopinggrandma
    3 years ago

    Wren what a good and pertinent article. Not much to add, except I have grab rails on both our loos to lower myself gently (!) and rubber grips on my toothbrush to make it easier to hold. I found these on disabled pencils and adapted them for my toothbrush. These along with a redundant shower seat in front of the sink and I’m flying !!

  • Shan
    3 years ago

    thank you for keeping it real. I recently spoke to my mom about this “issue”, a humbling conversation for me. My 76 year old mother offered to help me after using the loo. As much as I LOVE her heart and the offer, I told her I would rather run a 6 foot strip of wet wipes on the floor and run my bottom on it like the dogs do then to have her come wipe my bottom. (we had a good belly laugh at that) BUT, the problem remains. It’s good to know that there are some solutions to this task and I can still keep some independence and privacy.

  • Kate9373
    3 years ago

    Ra Loo thanks for posting. I had no idea there were so many devices that I could acquire and use. I don’t drive anymore but now I know what I want to look for during my next outing. After 30 plus years of using the computer (before there was ever a Windows) and also using large financial registers my hands suffer the most. I live along the Louisiana Gulf Coast and the humidity, wind and barometer moves at will in any direction. So thanks for posting. Remember everyone not to overdo and when your body is crying for rest, to rest as much as you possibly can. Kate9373.

  • angieswain@gmail.com
    3 years ago

    It was SOOO good to read this article. I had a real issue with using toilet paper while my right wrist was so sore. I was born left handed but have grown to use my right hand for most things over the years – but not for the use of toilet paper. Believe me, it is not an easy swop. I had a good laugh about it – thanks

  • mcadwell
    1 year ago

    I’m a lefty with scoliosis that twists my torso to the left. When my left hand/wrist/elbow/shoulder/any combination of them hurts I cannot use my right hand – I can’t twist far enough to use toilet paper from that direction. I will be looking into the toilet paper stick.

  • Wren moderator author
    11 months ago

    I’m glad that the article helped you find something that will be useful, mcadwell. Thanks so much for taking a moment to comment!

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, angieswain!
    Oh, I hear you! I’m right-handed. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to fumble with the clean-up using my left, dumber hand instead. SO frustrating! And when BOTH hands are painful? Auggghh!
    These bathroom aids really are worth trying. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and, I hope, it helped you smile and feel just a little less alone in the challenge. 😉
    Thanks for taking a moment to comment! Wishing you well! 😀

  • KarenG.
    3 years ago

    I had no idea there was so many ‘devices’ to assist with using the toilet…. The things we learn from this site is amazing. The only one of these devices I need is a raised toilet seat – I broke my left femur bone, had surgery, and getting up and down from sitting on anything is difficult. I tried the raised toilet seat, it got kind of messy. My husband decided the easiest thingt to do was raise the entire toilet – it’s now on a platform. The height of the seat is the same as if the toilet was at normal height with a raised seat on it….. Sorry to be so long winded….. Thanks!

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, KarenG!

    Hey–NO one can be too long-winded around here! I’m so glad you brought this particular issue up, because it can be a problem in and of itself. Some of us don’t mind the extra cleaning work a raised seat can cause, but not everyone wants to hassle with it or, for that matter, can. For those who can afford it, raising the entire toilet is a perfect solution.

    When we remodeled our master bath many years ago, we had the toilet raised–but not because of my RD. We did it because my husband was the main person to use that room, and not only is he very tall, but he was starting to experience some osteoarthritis in his hip. The change in height helped him and made him really happy!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

  • Elizabeth Riggs
    3 years ago

    Thanks, Wren! Something I have noticed in searching catalogs and internet sites for assistive devices – NONE of the places give 1) adequate visualization of how the item is used and 2) adequate description of how the item is to be used. I can’t tell you how many “arthritis assistive devices” I have purchased and then had to return – because I could not use them or they didn’t do what they said they would! I use the internet because my small town has little in the way of “arthritis aids” at the drugstores, and the medical supply store over-charges if your insurance won’t cover items.

    If you are looking at a dedicated website (not Amazon) have the phone number beside you and call. Half the time the person I get doesn’t know what I’m talking about – not an employee, and not a person who has a clue! But do try to get to the “real” people and get a decent description of how the item in question works before spending money on it.

    I’ve gotten my best help from an occupational therapist I know. I try to not over-use her, but there was one week when I called 3 times!

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, Elizabeth Riggs!

    Oh, thank you! What terrific advice regarding bathroom and other aids. I’ve encountered the same problem with some of them (not the ones for the loo, so far), and I wish I’d had someone with some experience to talk to before I’d bought them.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! 🙂

  • Kelly Mack moderator
    3 years ago

    So glad you wrote this article Wren! You really bring up some important practical issues and solutions. I’m a big fan of raised toilet seats, grab bars, and dressing stick to help with toileting. Makes life easier and more do-able! 🙂 -Kelly

  • Carla Kienast
    3 years ago

    Prior to my hip replacement surgery, just a few weeks after my RA diagnosis, I swore I’d never have handrails next to my toilets. It was a big ego thing. Once they were put in, I’ve never wanted them removed. It’s amazing how just a little help makes such a major difference.

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