What Can be Done to Modify the Home for Arthritis Sufferers

Living with a disease like arthritis can be difficult and painful.  A large part of the population who are 65 and older deal with the effects of this disease on a daily basis. While Arthritis is not actually just one term but several kinds of rheumatic diseases, most of which result in limited accessibility. Two specific types or arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and are the most common kinds.

While rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis share some similarities like joint pain, discomfort, and joint inflammation, they affect the body differently. One thing they both do is make a number of everyday tasks much more difficult and even painful.

To get an idea of what it would feel like to have one of these diseases, envision yourself with a tennis ball in your fist and a large sock over your hand. Now think about navigating normal, everyday tasks around the home with this hindrance. Consider the simple act of turning on a faucet or running the washing machine. How about opening up a cabinet?

Dealing with a disease like arthritis can be very difficult unless some steps are taken to minimize the accessibility obstacles that can result from having this disease. While there are many home modifications that can make it easier to navigate around the home, a few of the most significant would be to make sure that all doors and faucets have lever handles. Round faucet knobs are hard to turn on and off. Change cabinet hardware to D-shaped handles. Choose appliances with front controls. Remodel the inside of your cabinets to aid navigation by adding pop-up shelves, lazy susan’s, and pull-out racks.

In addition to painful joints, there may be some balance issues that should be considered. Installation of grab bars for stability and installing comfort height toilets are just two of the things that can help with this. Finish selection is another thing to consider and should focus on low maintenance and safety. Consider the long term maintenance too. Will the finishes require some type of sealing or refinishing? This can be difficult to achieve with arthritis. Consider safety and look at the slip factor. With stiff and painful joints, shuffling can occur creating a slip hazard on smooth flooring if there is wetness. Carpets that have low pile are a good choice with firm padding. A good choice is a commercial style carpet too.

Choose hardware and appliances that will make life easier.  If you have questions consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist or a designer with Aging in Place and Universal Design training. Occupational Therapists can also assist with information.  Dealing with a debilitating disease like arthritis is difficult and painful enough without having to deal with the additional problems like a home that isn’t accessible and functional. Remember safety, function and low maintenance are the keys to good design in addition to being beautiful. So, take some time to review your home design finishes.  With an eye to the future and some careful design considerations, you will have a home that you will be able to age safely and comfortably in even if you were to be afflicted with a debilitating disease like arthritis. Please contact me with any comments or questions. Take care.

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