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Assistive Devices for Arthritis

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I wanted to share another blog post about using  your creative ingenuity and skillful persistence at problem solving to live dynamically at home.  Our blog contributor from Chestertown, Maryland, Jack Matthews has some excellent key points about searching and finding resources to support living well with arthritis. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, having over used my hands as a sign language interpreter, painter and knitter I am already looking for ways to accommodate my hands.  I like learning how others have creatively found solutions and hope you find some of Jack’s pointers helpful! Sometimes it is the little things that offer assistance with simple daily activities that can make a huge difference! Let us know what makes your life easier.

In 1947, as member of a college Gym Team, I was working on the rings and practicing a ‘cut and catch’ The ‘cut’ was perfect, but something happened to the ‘catch’. When I landed on the mat and looked for my left elbow it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

It was repaired, just not fine-tuned, but since I was able to function in most normal activities I went on living. Now, I know that was not adequate, for my body has been out of sync for 67 years, seriously affecting my posture, standing and walking.

As we age there are many health problems that require creative thinking and assistive devices to make life easier, but it was arthritis that caused me to look for resources.

According to tests, it inhabits my knees, hips, back, neck and hands. Twenty years ago it forced me to stop doing calligraphy, and two years ago, my legs convinced me to give up driving. Since then my mobility in the house and outside has forced me to explore devices such as a cane, walking stick or walker. After trying a number, I settled on a rollator.

This is a 4-wheeled vehicle that has a seat with a back, a basket under the seat, and folds easily for transport. I have much more confidence, can move faster, inside and outside, and transport foods, drinks, mail, or objects. It weighs 14 pounds and easily fits in a trunk of most vehicles. (Lists in catalogs for $89 to $250. I paid $89).

In the kitchen I had problems opening bottles so placed a pair of off-set pliers in a handy drawer. That drawer also contains special grippers to open large jars and a screw driver.

Dressing became difficult when I could not reach my toes and could not put on my sox, so the catalog provided several types of ‘sox putter-onners’ and a long handled shoe horn.

When doing some home updating, we had most frequently used door knobs changed to easier lever handles. To eliminate carrying laundry up and down stairs, we had a tub replaced by an over/under washer/dryer in the bathroom. We also had grab bars placed in the shower and bathroom, and they have rescued my balance several times.

One of the most used devices is a ‘reacher’ or arm extender to retrieve items on the floor or high in closets. One is on the rollator at all times and seems to be in use quite often. These come in different lengths from 18” to 27” and cost from $9 and up.

Here are some tips for different problems: an apron with a large pocket to carry light things, thicker and softer handles are easier to grip so wrap home and yard tool handles with tape, buttoning a shirt can become frustrating but there are gadgets that help this, and even to pull a zipper up or down.

There are many more devices that make life easier, in the home or outside. For more details google ‘arthritis assistive devices’ on the computer, check at your pharmacy, or any store with medical and health care supplies.

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