Coping at Home with RA

If you have arthritis, you may find many daily activities difficult to manage. With tender and painful joints even the simplest of tasks can prove challenging -washing, dressing and brushing your hair. The best advice is to try and do things in the most energy efficient way and to pace yourself.

Managing daily activities

Here are some important steps that might help make managing the home easier:

  • Organise your tasks to conserve your energy. You can plan tasks so that you minimise the amount of walking between rooms.
  • Prioritise your tasks according to their importance. You will not be able to get everything done in the one day. Do the most urgent jobs first, and leave the less pressing jobs until later
  • Break up large tasks into small tasks that you can accomplish over a number of days. Set time limits for yourself. For example, spend 30 minutes each day weeding your garden. Don’t try to spend half the day at it.
  • Delegate tasks to your family members or other helpful volunteers/neighbours.
  • Take frequent breaks so you do not get too tired. Fatigue can cause your symptoms to flare up.
  • Vary your position when you carry out jobs. For example if you are standing up doing the ironing, then sit down while preparing a meal.
  • Make use of your larger joints where possible. For example, carry bags on your shoulder rather than in your hand.

Around the home

Being able to function independently at home is important for all of us. For many, rheumatoid arthritis is a disabling disease, and people sometimes need to adapt their homes to make life a little easier. Below are some suggested adaptations that could improve life around the house:

In the kitchen:

  • Use lightweight equipment eg. swap heavy pans/ dishes for lightweight pans
  • Buy chopped vegetables and fruit instead of trying to cut vegetables and fruit yourself
  • Invest in large grip cutlery
  • Install a levered handle
  • Use an electric can opener instead of a manual can opener
  • Use scissors instead of tearing packets to take the strain off using your hands
  • Store kitchen equipment/cleaning in easy-to-reach places
  • For easy cleaning, buy non-stick pans

In the bathroom:

  • Invest in a shower tray and lever-type taps
  • Use an electric shaver instead of a hand-held shaver
  • Use liquid soap instead of bar soap

In the garden:

  • Buy ergonomic shovels and rakes
  • Weed after it rains or the garden has been watered. Soft soil means less work

Other tips around the house:

  • Replace round doorknobs with the push-lever type
  • Buy a ‘reacher’. This is a device that helps people catch out of reach items with ease
  • Fix handrails to the walls
  • Use a trolley for shopping

Choosing equipment

Choosing the right mobility aids and equipment may seem like a daunting task, but there are many review websites that can help you with your decision.

For example, is an online resource, which provides information on assistive technology and a directory of products available from Irish suppliers. This website provides advice from choosing the correct footwear through to making major adaptations to your house.

Getting help and finding out about entitlements

For information on funding home adaptations and mobility aids the Citizens Information Board ( has published a booklet, ‘Entitlements for people with disabilities’.

The booklet contains a full range of supports for people with disabilities. A hardcopy is available for free from your local Citizens Information Centre, from the Citizens Information Board, by emailing or phoning 01-605 9000.

Within the booklet (Chapter 9) there is information on two grant schemes that might be of benefit to you if you decide to make alterations to your home or wish to purchase equipment: the Housing Adaptation Grant and the Mobility Aids Grant.

To be eligible for these grants, you need an occupational therapist assessment to evaluate what specialised equipment and home adaptations are needed. You can contact an occupational therapist through the community care section of your local HSE office. Alternatively, you can directly employ an occupational therapist to carry out this assessment and recoup up to €200 as part of your total grant.

Other groups can also provide support to help you live independently. The Centre for Independent Living aims to enable people with disabilities to live fulfilled, independent and active lives within society. For further information contact the Centre for Independent Living, Carmichael House, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7. Phone: 01-873 0455 or 01-873 0986. Email: Website:

Visit the Arthritis Ireland website ( for outlets in Ireland that sell adaptive equipment.