Living With Joint Pain
Assistive Devices and Strategies Can Make Life a Little Easier
June 22, 2010
As time goes by, if you are finding it harder or painful to do things that used to be easy, you are not alone. The occurrence of arthritis and joint pain grows as we age. In 2006, 46 million people (nearly 1 in 5 adults) were diagnosed with arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation, and 23.2 million more live with chronic joint pain.
The physical impairments and disability that come with joint pain can require major changes in lifestyle. Sometimes, people adapt to changes in their ability level, giving up things they like to do without even recognizing it. Pain medication and exercise can help, but assistive devices allow individuals to retain dignity as well as providing greater independence and ease of function in daily living activities.
Assistive devices are products and tools designed to compensate for impaired mobility, muscular strength, manual dexterity, range of motion and endurance. They help you continue to cook, clean, get dressed, bathe and move around with relative ease. For example, a key holder makes turning a key easier for people with weak hand grip. Other assistive devices include a non-child-proof cap on pill bottles and a reach extender that allows you to reach 26 to 30 inches and pick up small objects without painful stretching.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends various assistive devices to help you continue to do daily activities in all parts of your home.
If you have joint pain, the way you organize your kitchen can make your life easier and less painful. Rearrange your cupboards and drawers so you have quick and easy access to the items you use most often, reducing the need for bending or stretching. Trying to grip utensils with small handles can make cooking and eating harder than necessary. Utensils with fat foam handles are widely available and can make a world of difference. Consider these other simple ideas around the kitchen:
- Buy pots and pans with handles on both sides, which makes them easier to carry.
- Use an electric jar opener or can opener instead of a manual opener.
- Replace small switches and doorknobs with large, easy-to-grip knobs or levers that don't require turning.
Joint pain in the morning can make getting out of bed and getting dressed the hardest part of the day, but certain assistive devices can help make the process easier. On clothing, big buttons, the size of a nickel or larger, are easier to manipulate. Closures in the front are better, especially for bras and dresses. Try walking shoes with Velcro grips instead of shoelaces to make dressing easier. Use lamps activated by touch or by your voice. Small, hard-to-turn switches on lamps can be replaced with larger, grip-and-turn knobs. A sock aid can help you pull up your socks without bending your legs. A zipper pull, which has a large ring that attaches to a zipper tag, makes zippers easier to grab and zip.
In the bathroom, levered handles make turning on faucets in the bathroom sink and tub much easier. Grab bars make it easier and safer to get in and out of the bath or on and off of a toilet. Shower seats fit in your tub or shower stall and can help you bathe more comfortably and avoid falls. An elevated toilet seat can reduce the strain of using traditional low toilet seats. A long-handled bath brush or sponge can help you wash hard-to-reach places without bending. Easy-to-pull shower curtains are better than heavy shower doors. An electric toothbrush with a fat handle is easier to manipulate than a regular toothbrush.
Many assistive devices are available at full-service pharmacies, at surgical supply stores and online. Contact your local Arthritis Foundation chapter to find local stores that sell these products. The Arthritis Foundation (1-800-283-7800) also is a great source. If you can't install something yourself, a store can often arrange it, or check with your local hardware store to see if they can recommend someone to do it for you.
Joint pain may require adaptations in the way you do things, but don't let it stop you from living your life with dignity and independence.
About Aging Issues
Twice each month, the Ohio Department of Aging delivers Aging Issues, a column from Director Barbara E. Riley that examines topics of interest to older Ohioans, their family members and others who care for and serve them. Aging Issues is intended for personal use as well as re-publication in newspapers, newsletters and other publications with older adults as a target audience.
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