Dear Savvy Senior,
What products can you recommend for seniors with hand arthritis? I really struggle with anything that requires gripping and turning, which makes most activities difficult.
There are literally hundreds of different arthritis aids and other products on the market today that can help people with arthritic hands and carpal tunnel syndrome.
To find out which devices can best benefit you, start by asking your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist, who can test the strength and functionality of your hands and recommend appropriate aids. With that said, here’s a rundown of some helpful products for different needs.
Activities like gripping cooking utensils, cutting and chopping, opening jars and cans and moving around heavy pots and pans can make preparing a meal much more difficult when you have hand arthritis.
Oxo Good Grips makes dozens of soft, large-handle cooking, baking and cleaning utensils that are easier to grip. And for cutting and chopping the Dexter DuoGlide and Ergo Chef knives are excellent ergonomically designed options.
For opening jars, the wall-mounted or under-counter mounted Zim Jar Opener is a top manual opener. It has a V-shaped grip that holds the lid as you twist the jar with both hands. Some other good options are the Hamilton Beach Open Ease Automatic Jar Opener and a nifty tool called the JarPop that pops the seal on jars so lids can be removed easier.
For opening cans, an electric can opener is the best option. West Bend and Hamilton Beach make some of the best.
And if you’re interested in arthritis-friendly pots and pans, look for lightweight cookware that has two handles. These are much easier to lift and move around.
Turning doorknobs, key locks, twist-handles on kitchen or bathroom faucets and twist-on lamp switches can also be difficult. To help, there are doorknob lever adapters, key turners, lamp switch enlargers and lever handles for faucets that provide leverage for easier turning.
Squeezing a shampoo bottle or a tube of toothpaste, or gripping a bar of soap, a toothbrush handle or even a piece of dental floss can make grooming a challenge. Solutions include a wall-mounted soap, shampoo and toothpaste dispenser, which provides easy access to suds. And for brushing and flossing, there are wide-handled, electric toothbrushes and flossers that vibrate or spin to do the cleaning for you.
Fastening buttons, pulling zippers and tying shoelaces can also present problems. To help with these chores there are buttonhooks and zipper pulls and elastic shoelaces, which transform lace-ups into slip-ons.
Reading, writing and computing
Holding and turning the pages of a book, handwriting and using a computer mouse can also stress arthritic hands. For readers, an eReader like a Kindle or Nook is recommended because they’re lightweight and easier to hold than regular books.
For writing, there’s the soft rubber Pencil Grip that fits on pencils and pens and ergonomic-shaped pens like the Pen Again that reduce hand fatigue. And for easier computing, the 3M Ergonomic Mouse and Contour Roller Mouse can eliminate hand and wrist stress.
There are dozens of arthritis aids for hobbies, too. For example, there are automatic card shufflers and cardholders for card players. If you like to paint, knit or crochet, there are ergonomic paintbrushes and oversized knitting needles and crochet hooks that are easier to hold. And for sewing, quilting or crafting, there are tools like Fiskars self-opening Easy Action Scissors that spring open for easier cutting.
For a rundown of additional products and where you can purchase them, visit my online article at AchyHandAids.org.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.