10 Things that Make Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis Easier

by Lene Andersen, MSW Patient Advocate

When you have rheumatoid arthritis, interacting with objects in your home, garden and office can be frustrating and painful. Here are products and people that can help make your life easier.

Jar of pickles

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.

Elderly hands opening a pill bottle

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. Products are divided into three categories: Health and Wellness, Home and Hobbies and Work.

Car keys on ground


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.

Woman working in front of a computer

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.

Books with a pair of headphones around them

E-book 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 are much lighter than a book, and requires only the lightest touch to turn the page.

Professional woman writing on a notepad


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.

Physical therapist examining a man's leg

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapists help people of all ages. This can include an assessment of how you function to identify which tools may help you in your daily life. 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.

Elderly woman talking to a younger couple

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.

Woman sitting on an ergonomic desk chair

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, such as flexible work times, working from home, ergonomic workstation and tools.

Woman smiling at a desk with a computer monitor

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.