Tips To Make Your Home More Arthritis Friendly

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the UK, and it affects up to 10 million people. It can be a painful and debilitating condition which causes inflammation of the joints, leading to stiffness and reduced mobility. It’s more common in elderly people, but it can begin at any age.

Arthritis affects the joints, particularly in the hands, knees, and hips. There is no cure, although it can be treated and managed with prescription medications, and self-help techniques, such as light exercise, diet, and weight loss. However, as the condition progresses, many people find that the tasks of daily living become more challenging. 

This can escalate from an inconvenience to a major obstacle in being able to safely navigate the home, or cook and wash adequately. However, with the right aids and adaptations, it is possible to improve the quality of life and remain living independently at home for many years to come. 

An occupational therapist (OT) is best placed to identify which individual modifications might be best for you, by making an assessment of your home, stage of disease, and lifestyle. However, there are some general tips which may benefit people who find that their mobility is reduced. 


In the bathroom

Being able to take care of our personal hygiene safely and comfortably at home is a high priority. Installing grab bars by the toilet, bath tub, and shower can help with safe manoeuvrings. Anti-slip mats should also be placed in the shower and to cover smooth areas of flooring. 

If climbing into the bath tub or shower cubicle is becoming painful and hazardous, there are various assisted bathing solutions you can consider. If you have a shower cubicle, replacing it with a doorless walk in shower with a shallow tray may be easier. A shower seat can be fitted if standing for prolonged periods is painful or tiring. 

For those who require wheelchair access, or wish to future proof the bathroom for a time when this might be needed, a wet room is a great solution. This is an open plan room with fully sealed walls and flooring, which eliminates the need for a shower tray completely. They are more costly to install than other adaptations, but you may be eligible for a grant. 

Accessing bath tubs can be a particular problem for those with stiff and painful joints. However, soaking in warm water can be especially therapeutic, as it increases blood flow to the muscles, encouraging them to relax and soften. Therefore, installing a bath lift, a walk-in bath, or a power bath may be especially beneficial. 


In the kitchen

Preparing meals can be a challenge for people with stiff and painful hands and wrists. Reaching for items in cupboards, opening and closing drawers, and manipulating utensils, which were once done without a second thought, can become a slow and cumbersome business. 

There are various small steps you can take without making major adaptations. For example, the pans and cooking utensils which you use most often could be placed on hooks near to the cooker, rather than on shelves or in cupboards. If you have a lot of heavy stone or cast iron pots and pans, replace them with lighter stainless steel versions. 

There are many kitchen tools designed to help people with reduced grip, such as jar openers and knives with extra-large handles for a more comfortable grip. Buying pre-chopped or sliced foods when possible is also helpful. 


On steps and stairs

Stair lifts and ramps may be the best solution for those with severe problems. If the stairs are still manageable, it is important to ensure there is a secure railing installed all the way up the stairs for extra support. Carpets should be well fitted and rugs removed to reduce the risk of trips and falls. Anti-slip mats may help on hard flooring such as wood or tiles.

All steps and stairs, both inside and outside the home, should be well-lit and free from any clutter and debris at all times. If climbing up and down stairs is painful, you could consider transferring some items and activities upstairs or downstairs. 

For example, a small fridge installed upstairs to keep medication and snacks may be beneficial, if you tend to get up in the night or take bed rest during the day time. 


In the garden

Gardening is a good form of light exercise for people with arthritis. Installing raised flower beds and planting tables can help you to continue enjoying your garden when bending and kneeling becomes too difficult. 

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