Everyday Life & RA: 10 Resources to Make It Easier

by Lene Andersen, MSW Patient Advocate

For some, it's the jar that might as well have a padlock. For others, it's the childproof cap on a prescription bottle standing between them and relief of pain. Then there is the keyboard that makes your wrists hurt, scissors that cause the base joint in your thumb to be unusable and the list is endless. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, interacting with objects in your home, garden and office can be frustrating and painful. This post will feature products and places that can make your life easier.

Jar Openers

The inability to open a jar of jam, baby food or pickles for your lunch is enough to make you cry. A piece of rubbery material that gives you a better grip on the lid is a pretty low-tech solution, as is a doodad giving you a different type of grip that doesn't require twisting,. A below-cabinet jar opener or
an electric jar opener are other options for those whose hands hurt a lot.

Ease of Use

The Arthritis Foundation's Ease of Use Commendation is given to products designed to be easier to use by people with kinds of arthritis and other mobility problems. The products are tested by an independent lab and reviewed by people with arthritis (I was one of the reviewers last month). Products are divided into three categories: Health and Wellness, Home and Hobbies and Work. They include a prescription bottle with a childproof cap usable by most people with arthritis, a pair of scissors that make cutting fabric much easier, easy-to-open [binders] and many other products.


A reacher is a fantastic tool for those times where bending or stretching to reach something is difficult. Reachers consist of a pair of tongs on one end of a stick and a handle on the other. They are connected through a spring action - when you squeeze the handle, the tongs close. This can allow you to pick up anything from a piece of paper, a set of keys or a loaf of bread. Reachers are available in drugstores, dollar stores, medical supply retailers and through occupational therapists. If you have limited grip strength, there are reachers with an alternative design.

Voice Recognition Software

If you have trouble typing, voice recognition software can help you at work and at home. Using this software and a microphone, you speak and the computer types for you. Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance e most well-known and is available for both PC and Mac. It's easy to use and train, has a very high accuracy rate and adapts quickly to your voice. In fact, this program is the reason I have a job as a writer. Everything I do for HealthCentral -including this post - is written with Dragon

Ebook Readers and Audiobooks

Books are a wonderful escape, but if your hands, shoulders and neck hurt when you hold them, what you love can cause you pain. E-book readers such as the Kindle and Nook and tablets (e.g. the iPad) can make life much easier. Some - e.g. the Kindle Touch - are much lighter than a book, and requires only the lightest touch to turn the page. If your neck hurts and you have trouble looking down at the book, audio books may be your saving grace. I have been a member of Audible for years and very much enjoy listening to an excellent narrator reading a good story.


Writing can make your hand cramp and aggravate the small joints in your fingers. Placing your pen or pencil inside a cushion or pen grip adds to the circumference and reduces the strain on your hand. These products can be found online or in office supply stores. You can also try out different pens to find one that has a smooth, gliding feel. I switched from ballpoints to gel pens years ago and never looked back - they are the most comfortable pens I've ever used.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists help people of all ages participate in the things they want to do. This can include an assessment of how you function to identify which tools may help you in your daily life. Occupational therapists often carry around catalogs filled with products that can make life easier in the home and at work. The American Occupational Therapy Association website has a number of resources and downloadable tip sheets with more information about how occupational therapy may work for you. Talk to your doctor about getting a referral to an OT.

Talk to Others with RA

One of your best resources for tips on how to make your everyday life easier is other people with RA. Ronie brilliantly suggested washing the bathtub with a mop, saving you from having to kneel, bend over and reach. Lisa has posted about kitchen tools and a miscellany of tips for the everyday. On A Rheumful of Tips, Marianna Paulson shares practical tips and ideas for making life with RA easier. Topics include different ways of doing everyday tasks (this alternative use of an egg slicer is brilliant), advocacy, and stress management (Marianna is also known as Auntie Stress).

Job Accommodation Network

Your employer is legally obligated under the Americans with Disabilities Act to accommodate you if arrangements can be made that allows you to do the essential duties of the job. The Job Accommodation Network is a wonderful resource that can help you and your employer identify suitable accommodations that work for you and the job. Examples of possible accommodations for people with RA include flexible work times, working from home, technologies such as voice recognition software and ergonomic workstation and tools.

Arthritis Supplies

Finding tools and devices to make activities of daily living easier can be a bit of a challenge if you don't yet know what you're looking for. Medical supply retailers, such as Patterson Medical has a range of products under the aids for daily living category. When you're looking specifically for products that make life with arthritis easier, Arthritis Supplies has almost everything under one roof/website.

Lene  Andersen, MSW
Meet Our Writer
Lene Andersen, MSW

Lene Andersen is an author, health and disability advocate, and photographer living in Toronto. Lene (pronounced Lena) has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since she was four years old and uses her experience to help others with chronic illness. She has written several books, including Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, as well as the award-winning blog, The Seated View. Lene serves on HealthCentral's Health Advocates Advisory Board, and is a Social Ambassador for the RAHealthCentral on Facebook page, facebook.com/rahealthcentral. She is also one of HealthCentral's Live Bold, Live Now heroes — watch her incredible journey of living with RA.