Living With Arthritis: Easy Door and Cabinet Fixes
More than heart disease, cancer or diabetes, arthritis limits our activities at home. More than 50 percent of all adults have some form of arthritis, which can make even the most common daily activities frustrating and painful. Many of the small things around the house that are hard to use can be easily modified or replaced, increasing the independence and quality of life for the person with arthritis and reducing the amount of help caregivers have to provide.
Joints in the hands, knees and hips are most commonly affected by the 100+ forms of arthritis we currently know about. In this instance, we are focusing on modifications designed to help people with arthritis in their hands, which is the most common of all locations of arthritic pain.
Door Knobs: Imagine having to think twice about whether it is worth the pain to open a door, a cabinet or a drawer. You might decide to wait until someone comes along who will open things for you. On a beautiful day this might mean sitting inside all day. Or it could mean waiting for someone to help you get a glass for water...or being reluctant to close the bathroom door for privacy because it is painful to re-open it.
Using a traditional round doorknob requires gripping tightly with your fingers and twisting your wrist, both of which can be very painful for someone with arthritis. Replace them with lever handles, which are much easier to use, even if you don't have arthritis.
Lever handles are operated by pushing down, rather than grasping and twisting. When hands are painful, or full, they can be operated by pushing down with the forearm or the elbow. As the population of people looking for age-in-place homes grows, so does the selection of lever door handles in local hardware shops as well as online. There is a price point and a style for everyone. Any reasonably handy person can replace a standard door knob with a lever handle.
Traditional cabinet and drawer knobs also require your fingers to "pinch" in order to pull. While it may not require much strength to pull the door or drawer once your fingers have a grip, it's the gripping itself that can be very painful. Although you can spend an extraordinary amount on cabinet and drawer hardware, you don't have to. Replacement hardware is available at very reasonable prices.
Look for "U" or "T" shaped handles and knobs. "D" shape handles permit several fingers to slide into the handle, eliminating the need to pinch the fingers. Using three or four fingers to pull is much less painful.
"T" shape handles for either drawers or cabinet doors allow users to slip a straight finger on either side. With "T" shape hardware there is also no need to "pinch" as there would be with a round knob.
Many of these replacement knobs and handles can simply be screwed into the holes left by the original hardware. If you are renting, be sure to save the original hardware in a safe place so you can restore it when you move.
The most common round hot and cold water controls at sinks and in tubs and showers are also often very difficult for individuals with arthritis to use without pain. Ordinarily kitchen faucets are now lever style mixing faucets, but this obviously useful change still hasn't made it into as many bathrooms as it should. If you still have round hot and cold water controls in your bathroom, these, too, can be replaced with lever handles that can be turned on and off with an open hand.
Replacing faucets is not a job most homeowners are comfortable with. Unless you are certain you know what you are doing, hire a plumber or a handyman who is experienced with plumbing to replace faucets. One mistake can cause both a large mess and a large repair bill.
These are adaptations that many of us are beginning to think about for ourselves, as well. If you are planning to stay in your current home when you are older, starting these small projects now will make your home more comfortable as you age.