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What Makes a Home RA-Friendly?

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Hand with rheumatoid arthritis

Among the many “joys” rheumatoid arthritis brings to our lives, difficulty in performing simple daily tasks ranks among the most irritating.  Think of all the times you open a can – or two or three – with a hand-operated can opener.  Or turning door knobs. RA makes those little jobs extremely painful.

I raised six children and often prepared dinner for more than family, since I never knew when a friend or two would decide to stay over and join us. Cooking for a crowd was fun, except when the pain became too much.  Since I had no real diagnosis in those days, I learned to compensate and find easier ways to accomplish what I had to do.

Perhaps some of these suggestions will make your daily life easier.

A One-Story House May Ease Your Pain

Over the years, we lived in both one and two-story houses, and a single-story house cleans up quicker and easier.  In the early years, we couldn’t afford 2 vacuum cleaners and a couple years of dragging that monster Electrolux up and down the stairs was more than enough!

We won’t count the multiple loads of daily laundry that I had to carry up and down those stairs. 

We bought our single-story home in 1977 and even though it was large, life became much less painful.  Sure, it helped that the kids were growing up and could help more.  But that home had a built-in vacuum cleaner that I’ve never seen since and oh, what a life changer that was for me.

Anything that saves you steps and doesn’t require much heavy-lifting helps those with an autoimmune disease.

Handles Instead of Knobs Open Doors Easily

When your hands hurt, the effort of turning a door knob becomes monumental!  Try switching out the knobs for handles that turn effortlessly. It makes a world of difference for painful hands and fingers.

Wheels Help With the Laundry

Back when I had kids at home and tons of laundry facing me each day, I wish I had known about baskets on wheels to pull around the house instead of lifting and carrying.  That would have saved my back.

A Good Mattress Makes for a Good Marriage

Jim and I both struggled with back pain over the years, and we tried several types of mattresses.  In those years before memory foam, regular mattresses just didn’t cut it.  We settled on a water bed for years and then a soft-sided water bed mattress until it died.

Then I discovered the individually adjustable beds.  I dragged Jim to the mall after we moved to Florida, and we bought a Sleep Number mattress.  We still had the extra strong box spring from our soft-sided water bed, and it worked perfectly as a base for our new purchase.  That adjustable mattress, bought in 2003, is still serving us well today.

Now, you can find all kinds of mattress options in stores and online.  It pays to research, try out and figure out what works best for you.  A good night’s sleep works wonders in helping you deal with the other obstacles brought on by your autoimmune disease.

Let the Slow Cooker Do the Work

I don’t cook a lot these days.  After all, I paid my dues in years’ past!  What I do cook is done with ease and speed in mind and my slow cookers are my favorite appliances.  With 2 sizes of cookers, I can prepare meals and let them cook all day without effort. From homemade soups to main entrees, the slow cookers do the heavy lifting.

Light It Up

Consider adding nightlights in your hallways and bathrooms to facilitate safe bathroom trips at night.  Falling is a fear all RA patients worry about, and good lighting helps eliminate that problem.

Put Your Countertops to Work

We live in a condo these days and counter space is at a premium.  But I decided long ago to keep the appliances and tools I use most often at my level of use.  No more digging the big Kitchen Aid mixer out from a lower cabinet.  It stays on top, even if it doesn’t add to the décor.  I finally got smart and switched to an electric can opener, which also sits on the counter.  All the coffee supplies and the Keurig have their own space on their own countertop. 

Set your kitchen up in a way that works best for you.  Don’t worry about décor.  Life is too short to cause yourself unnecessary pain.

Gadgets Can Be Your Friend

I’ll admit it.  I’m a sucker for gadgets.  Just show me an ad or infomercial for some new gadget that might help me complete tasks more easily, and I’ll buy!

I’ve bought corner strips to stick on throw rugs so they don’t move around and cause me to trip and fall.  And I bought a small, pedal bike thingie to exercise on while sitting in a chair.  It’s the pedaling apparatus to a bike on a metal stand with rubber stoppers to keep it from slipping on my tile floors, and I love it!

Look at those interfering ads online and on television in a different way, and you may find some treasures that help you navigate your daily chores.

Replace The Switches

Even with Enbrel working so well in my life, some tasks hurt.  Turning lamps on and off is one of those.  I made a decision that whenever we need to replace a lamp, it will be to one with an automatic turn-on switch.  I like the ones you just touch to turn on and off.

Find More Tips

You’ll find many more suggestions for making your home RA-friendly in my book, “Rheumatoid Arthritis:  A Living Nightmare.”  You can purchase it for only $1.99 at

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