Coping with RA on the Homestead

I have Rheumatoid arthritis.  I was diagnosed in 2000, but I probably had it long before that.  It flared dramatically after having Lyme’s disease.

It’s difficult working full time with RA, and the homestead work is no exception.  Sore joints in the morning, limited movements, and swollen joints all inhibit what I feel like doing.  But as with most of life, it goes on and I need to cope.

I’ve found a few things that make common chores easier.

I use utensils in the kitchen that have large cushioned handles. They are easier to hold onto. I make sure my knives are sharp so they glide through food without any pressure. I bought a jar opener that looks like a “V”, and mounted it under the kitchen cabinets – so much easier than struggling to open a stuck jar lid.

Arrange your kitchen so the most used items are easy to reach.  This is just common sense.  I have plenty of drawers rather than lower cabinets, so it’s easy to open and pull out what I need.  Items I don’t use often go on top shelves – you know, the ones you need step stool to reach.  I’ve also pared down a lot as I have gotten older.  I don’t need 10 different sizes of pots, and a half dozen different skillets.  I confess, however, I am loathe to discard any of my cast iron pieces, even if they are heavy.  Nothing could replace Grandma’s cast iron skillet, or the one I’ve had since we got married, the one that lives on the stove top.

I keep a well stocked pantry (meaning the pantry cupboard, the freezer and refrigerator, and canned goods from the garden).  It’s impossible to not be able to come up with some kind of meal.  And then I only have to do a major shopping trip once a month or so.  And one trip to a BJ’s for bulk items every few months.  Less driving means less hip, knee and shoulder pain from sitting in a vehicle.

I also bought a cushioned mat to keep in front of the sink and counter where I spend most of my time. There are  some expensive ones, but I have also found them for much less at Walmart, without the brand name. That extra padding makes standing on sore feet and knees much easier.

Speaking of knees, I have a hard time getting down on them and up again in the garden.  I’ve found a large cushioned mat makes kneeling much easier when I work around the koi pond or in the garden.  Most of the time I avoid getting down on my knees completely though. I use long handled garden tools and a long handles skimmer for the pond when I need to clean it.  There are also plenty of garden stools on line that will allow you to kneel or sit without being on the ground.

And getting outside is important.  Not only does nature lift your spirits, and help those feel good hormones circulate, but the fact is certain things need to get done.  It’s a vicious cycle to just rest.   If I rest too much I don’t feel like moving, and the less I move the worse I feel and the less I can get up and do.  It’s important for people with RA to get up and take a walk.  Don’t feel you have to go to a gym for an hour.  Don’t get me wrong, weight lifting does help strengthen muscles and provides better joint support, but if a workout or even lifting around the house is too hard on a given day, at least walk.  Get your heart rate up a bit, breath some fresh air, and you’ll get something done that needs doing anyway.  Often I find that once I am up and moving around I can do a lot more than I thought, and I feel better for it.  Ultimately I feel happier than if I had been a couch potato for the day.

Medications help prevent RA from getting worse, but I have to maintain what I do now in order to not lose the abilities I do have.  Find a good arthritis doctor who can help, and try to maintain the life you want by adapting how you do things.