Arthritis affects 10 percent of the American popu-lation and 50 percent of those over age 65. Strokes, nerve damage, and accidents may also result in a loss of flexibility in the fingers and other joints. Arthritis may cause weakness in limbs, and force some individuals to avoid stress on joints.
If you have arthritis or flexibility problems, begin by determining which tasks are easy and which are difficult. Many people, for example, have trouble closing their hands to grip objects—particularly small objects, such as pens or pot handles. To better handle these items, wrap them in insulation material, foam, or cloth secured by rubber bands. Insert a small utensil in a large foam or rubber ball for easier gripping.
In the kitchen, weighing ingredients may be easier than trying to measure them. Although converting recipes takes a long time, it will save hours of frustration over the years. Nonstick surfaces on pots and pans facilitate cleanup.
If you have a weak grip, one of the handiest tools is a rubber jar opener. It gives more power with less pressure and makes opening jars, turning on ranges, and turning door knobs easier. For tough jobs, wedge the jar in a drawer or between the knees to hold it steady while twisting.
For many, small knobs on major appliances can be a major frustration. A few manufacturers, however, offer large knobs that fit over the originals, for easier turning. For narrow knobs, old-fashioned slip clothespins increase leverage. A potato masher may fit over some knobs, making them easier to push and turn.
Free-standing small appliances, such as mixers, are easier to handle than portable appliances because they do not need to be held. Power drives on vacuum cleaners and other equipment may also lessen stress on the joints.
Use utensils in the palm of the hand rather than the fingertips whenever possible. For example, use a kitchen knife held in the hand to lift ring tabs on cans, and to pry open milk cartons or box tops.
Removing doors from cupboards and installing vertical separators to place items side by side, rather than stacking them, makes it easier to remove equipment.
When possible, use two hands for pouring from a heavy container, such as a salt box.
Dressing with Ease
A potato masher helps push and turn some knobs.
Vertical separators make each item accessible, and eliminate the need to stack and lift items.
Dressing may also be difficult if you have flexibility problems. Garments that slip over the head or zip up the back may be impossible to wear if you cannot lift your arms over your head or reach behind yourself. Front opening garments are recommended. Replacing buttons with hook and loop fasteners, or using a button hook, is also helpful. For fastening aprons, use hook and loop fasteners or plastic hoops that slip around the waist. A large, decorative tab makes zippers easier to pull.
When sewing, use basting tape rather than pins to hold seams. Quick-clip cutters are useful both for sewing and wherever something needs to be clipped. The blades are fastened to wide plastic handles and operate from the palm of the hand with a spring mechanism. Non-tension scissors are also available.
Accessories that increase the diameter of door knobs for easier turning are available. For minor problems, a strip of cloth-backed adhesive may give enough traction. Also, consider levers on faucets and doors as an alternative to knobs.
Switches are available to convert lamps from rotary switches to touch types. With touch switches, you simply touch the lamp in a general area, such as the shade, and the lamp turns on or off.
Long strings with a large knot on the end on light switches allow for easier gripping and better leverage.
Handrails make inclines, steps, and bending easier, distributing the weight onto the arms, back, and legs.
Try using a tape recorder, rather than a pen and paper, when leaving messages for the family or for long letters.
Small changes in how you do things and simple adaptations can make your life easier and increase your independence.