I always try to give great gifts, and I know a thing or two about good gifts for people with osteoarthritis. Both my parents had severe arthritis, and now I suffer from it. So does my husband. I have osteoarthritis in my right knee, right hip, and both hands. I also have spinal arthritis, so I totally understand how osteoarthritis can make simple everyday tasks difficult. This might include bathing, walking, typing, rising from a sitting position, bending, climbing stairs, and/or opening jars. My arthritis hasn’t yet reached the severity of my parents’ conditions, but I still have some bad days when I need some help. I’m often home alone, so that “help” often comes in the form of handy gadgets. Such gadgets can be great gifts for physically disabled individuals. Things that provide pain relief also make good gift ideas. I’m sending the link to this article to all my kids, and I hope they’ll take the hint. Below are some good gifts for people with osteoarthritis – most of which I’d like to receive!
What is Osteoarthritis
What is osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints. Cartilage and the ends of bones are directly affected, but as these tissues become damaged, surrounding and nearby ligaments and muscles can be affected, too. The condition can be caused by stress, injuries, obesity, and decreased muscle strength. Sometimes osteoarthritis can be caused by physical abnormalities, like when bones aren’t properly aligned.
Any joint can become arthritic, but the areas most often affected are the spine, the hands, the knees, and the hips. Typical symptoms include pain, stiffness, tenderness, swelling, muscle spasms, and restricted movement and flexibility. Arthritic joints might crack and pop, and sometimes they seem to “freeze up” or “lock.” Osteoarthritis is degenerative, meaning that it tends to worsen over time.
Gifts for Arthritis Sufferers
Gifts for arthritis sufferers should include things that make life easier and more comfortable for those with the condition. Unless you have advanced arthritis, you can’t fully understand how painful and how frustrating it can be. You simply can’t do many of the things that you used to do with ease, including tasks that others take for granted. Sometimes, in fact, you might experience so much pain that you don’t even want to move. Ironically, moving often helps relieve the pain in the long run. On some days, the frustration is worse than the pain. You might want to do something that your body won’t allow you to do. When you’re searching for gifts for arthritis sufferers, please keep this information in mind.
Arthritis in Hands
Arthritis in hands can be hard to live with. I mean, just consider how vital your hands are for doing just about everything! Gifts for arthritis sufferers of this type can benefit from a variety of items. Some good gift ideas can be focused on pain relief or on helpful gadgets. Such gadgets might include jar openers, wine openers, things that make computer access easier – a keyboard with large keys, a special mouse, or a voice-recognition application like Dragon.
Dragon allows the user to create text without actually typing. The software types your words as you speak, and you can also control the mouse, launch applications, and do other computer tasks without using your hands. Dragon and other voice dictation apps would make great gifts for people with arthritis who find fingering difficult.
Arthritis in hands can be terribly painful. I remember how my Mom’s hands used to cause her a lot of discomfort. Her hands were gnarled, with Heberden’s nodes and Bouchard’s nodes on most of the joints. She took oral medications and used heat-producing capsaicin creams to help manage the pain, but these remedies didn’t help improve the function of her hands much. She had trouble fastening buttons, putting on jewelry, and completing other simple tasks. For people like Mom, great gifts might include things that help make getting dressed easier.
My knee arthritis is often very painful, and sometimes it’s debilitating. I have no cartilage left in one knee. On some days, my knee works pretty well, but on others, I have to use grab bars to go up and down my outdoor entrance steps, to get in and out of the shower, and to even get up from the toilet. I’m not using a walker yet, but I certainly foresee one in my future. Even if I undergo knee replacement, I still have to contend with arthritis in hip and spinal arthritis, which can both make walking upright difficult and painful.
Arthritic knees can even make sleeping difficult due to intense pain. Sometimes I have to sleep on my side, with a pillow tucked between my knees. The pillow provides some cushioning to the bad joint. If I lie on my back, a wedge pillow that keeps my knees bent feels nice. Because of this, I think such pillows would be good gifts for arthritis sufferers.
Arthritis in Hip
Arthritis in hip is the degeneration of the hip joint. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, difficulty walking, and tenderness. People with this type of arthritis might have trouble rising from a chair, getting out of bed, and bending over to pick up items or to put on their shoes and socks. Great gifts for these recipients might include walking canes, grabbers, and walkers. If money isn’t an issue, a wonderful gift would be a lift chair. These chairs automatically lift the sitter to a standing position with the push of a button, taking pressure and stress from the arthritic joint.
Like my father, I have spinal arthritis, although mine isn’t as bad as his was…yet. His started when he was in his twenties, and it was so bad that he was medically discharged from the army during World War II. With spinal arthritis, the protective cartilage and the discs between the vertebra wears down, causing pain and stiffness. When these tissues break down, the body sometimes makes osteophytes, or bone spurs, to correct the problem. Oftentimes, the bone spurs create more problems. They can rub on and aggravate nerves, causing radiating pain. When associated with spinal arthritis, bone spurs can cause pain and tingling in the arms, hands, legs, buttocks, or feet, depending on which nerves are affected.
Spinal arthritis can affect the neck, upper back, mid-back, or lower back, depending on which vertebra are involved – the cervical, the thoracic, or the lumbar. If the cervical spine is involved, a neck pillow for using in the car might help. An over-the-door traction device can help, too. I have one, and Dad used one. This device stretches the upper spine, creating more space between the vertebra. Dad always referred to as “hanging himself,” so I often use the same terminology.
Some good gifts ideas for people with this type of arthritis could include supportive brace wraps, heat therapy devices, and wedge pillows that help alleviate pain in the lower back. If nerve pain and muscle spasms are involved, you might want to consider a TENS unit. These little devices are good gift ideas because they provide pain relief for many users. I have a TENS myself, by the way, and I use it often. Many people with spinal arthritis find it easier to walk when they’re bent slightly forward. When I go shopping, for example, I always push a buggy – unless it’s a bad day and I have to ride on a scooter. I use a shopping cart even if I’m picking up only one small item. Bending over a little creates more space between the vertebra and often relieves symptoms. A walker would serve the same purpose.
Grabbers are those gadgets that extend the user’s reach. A typical grabber tool has a “hand” at one end that opens and closes, operated by a grip trigger at the other end. The grabber allows the user to pick items up without bending over. Grabbers are even handy for those who don’t have arthritis, like when items on high kitchen shelves are out of reach. If your recipient already has a grabber, get him another one. It’s always good to have two or three grabbers. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to have one in every room of the house, especially since you can find plenty of inexpensive models. I can tell you from experience that grabbers make life a heck of a lot easier for me!
I’ve always thought that gift certificates make great gifts, and I think they’re especially good gift ideas for people with arthritis. Two types of gift certificates come to mind here. The first is for local restaurants. Okay, you’re thinking that the person might not feel like going out to eat, right? That might well be true, so I’m talking about restaurants that provide take-out or delivery service. When the person is having a bad day and doesn’t feel up to cooking, he or she can call ahead, order a meal, and have it delivered or picked up by a friend or relative.
The second type of gift certificates I have in mind are for massages. A therapeutic massage can really help with pain reduction. My health insurance used to cover most of the cost of therapeutic massages, but it doesn’t now, so these massages are real treats for me now. (Hint, hint to my daughters!)
Actually, I just thought of a third type of gift certificates that would be good gifts for arthritis sufferers – those to salons. Mom had trouble doing her hair, painting her fingernails, and manicuring her toenails, but she still liked to look nice and well groomed. She loved going to the salon for manicures and pedicures!
Walking canes are helpful for people who have arthritic knees, arthritis in hip, or spinal arthritis. A walking cane is especially beneficial to people whose arthritis affects mostly one side, as the walking sticks can help distribute body weight and help transfer it to the “good” side. Walking canes also help with balance and stability and can reduce the number of falls.
Chances are that your gift recipient already has a functional walking cane. You know, the typical metal one they use on a daily basis. Why not give a cane for special occasions? There are lots of fashionable canes on the market. Fashionable canes might be made of woods like cherry, oak, beechwood, ash, chestnut, birch, rosewood, walnut, or more exotic woods. Walking canes and walking sticks might also be carved, adorned with silver or pewter, or inlaid with contrasting designs. A unique cane, a beautiful waking stick, or even a fancy handle would all make great gifts.
We have grab bars all over our home – both inside and out. We have a grab bar next to both bathtubs, directly in front of both toilets, and beside the steps at the front, side, and back doors. These grab bars are really helpful for my knee arthritis, as they help me take some of the weight and pressure off my bad knee.
Different types of grab bars are available. Some require installation and others are pretty much “instant.” Some grab bars are better than others, and it’s best to get those that are approved by the ADA. A grab bar should be screwed into a secure support, like a wall stud. If this isn’t possible, as in the case of fiberglass or sheetrock, channel backers can be used with some types of grab bars.
Another option is a suction grab bar. These are super easy to install, with no drilling or screws required. A suction grab bar can also be placed in any position and can easily be repositioned. Keep in mind, however, that these grab bars are not generally thought to be as safe or secure as traditional, more permanent grab bars are.
If you choose to give grab bars as gifts, it would be nice if you include the gift of time along with them. You could offer your services to install the bars. If you’re not at all handy, make arrangements for someone else to install the grab bars.
For people with severe osteoarthritis and for those who have arthritis on both sides of their body, walkers can offer them more mobility. There are several different types of walkers, including traditional, two wheeled, heavy duty, and rolling walkers. A traditional walker has four legs with rubber coverings at the ends. Two-wheeled walkers have wheels on the front two legs, so the user doesn’t have to constantly pick up and move the entire walker with every step. Rolling walkers usually have four wheels. Brakes are provided on or near the hand grips. Heavy duty walkers are also available. They’re usually wider than regular walkers, and they’ll support more weight, so these are good choices for larger or heavy individuals.
Walkers make good gifts for people with osteoarthritis. If the person already has a walker, you might want to get them a different type. For example, he might use one type for some places and certain types of terrain and use a different type for others. He might also like to keep a fold-up walker in the car and another one at home.
Accessories for Walkers
If your gift recipient already has a walker, you might want to consider accessories for walkers. One of the best accessories for walkers, in my opinion, is an attachable basket. Mom and Dad both had baskets on their walkers, allowing them to carry items from room to room while leaving both hands free to grip the walker.
Other accessories for walkers include bags that attach to the walker. The bags might have several different compartments, pouches, and zippers. Another accessory that might interest you is a cup holder that attaches to the walker. To add more comfort to walkers, you can buy arm rests. These attach to the walker and provide a comfortable place to rest the forearms. There’s also a fold-away tray available, which is especially useful for outdoor events. Once the person is seated, he can fold out the tray and use it as a small table.
Some of the most popular accessories for walkers are glides, or “shoes.” These are soft attachments that fit over the ends of the legs. The glides have several purposes. They make the walker move more smoothly, they provide some shock absorption, and they make walkers quieter.
Accessories for Walkers:
I’ve always enjoyed taking a long soak in a bathtub, but in the past few years, this is often impossible. Most of the time, I have to take showers. On my bad days, however, standing under the running water can be painful – sitting would be much more comfortable. This is where shower seats come in. A shower seat allows you to sit in comfort as the soothing hot water runs over your aching joints.
Shower seats and chairs come in a variety of models. Some are basic benches that sit completely in a tub or shower. Others are wider and extend past the rim of the bathtub. That way, the user can sit on the bench and “slide” into the bathtub without having to climb. Shower seats might also swivel, allowing the user more mobility. There are also some shower seats available that are more attractive than the standard models. These might be constructed of wood, including teak, walnut, or bamboo.
I love my shower massage! Because of my spinal arthritis, some days it’s difficult for me to stand up straight once I get out of bed. On those days, I stumble, bent over, to my shower and crank up the water as hot as I can stand it. I then stand, stooped over, with the shower massage aimed at my back. The pulsating hot water helps relieve the pain and stiffness, and after a few minutes, I can straighten up to full height.
Shower massage devices make great gifts for people with arthritis. Most units have an adjustable dial that quickly changes the strength and pulse rate of the water flow, allowing the user to choose which is the most soothing. Actually, I think the hand-held shower massage is best, and that’s the one I have. I can place the shower head in its holder and use it like a traditional shower head, or I can use it as a wand to focus on specific areas. Most shower massage devices are easy to install, too.
For some people with arthritis, heat therapy provides some relief from pain. I love getting in my hot tub and positioning a sore or tender area right over a jet. Of course, you probably don’t want to spend big bucks on a hot tub as a gift, but there are other sources of heat therapy that are much less expensive. These include heating pads, heat wraps, infrared heat lamps, microwavable pads, and creams and ointments. Any of these would make good gifts for people with osteoarthritis. For arthritis in hands, some sufferers find relief with paraffin baths. Why not create a gift basket that contains creams, ointments, heat wraps, and a microwavable pad or two? I assure you that these great gifts would be much appreciated!
Cold therapy seems to work better for some arthritis sufferers. I’m sure many of my fellow sufferers are like me – sometimes heat therapy works better, and sometimes cold therapy works better. Cold temperatures can help numb pain and reduce swelling. Cold therapy can be delivered via motorized devices, packs, wraps, and gels. You can find cold wraps for just about any part of the body, including ones designed for the back, the feet, the ankle, the wrist, the hand, the knee, the hip, the thigh, the elbow, the neck, and the shoulder.
If you’re not familiar with motorized devices used for cold therapy, allow me to explain. Such a device has a reservoir that’s filled with water and ice. The cold water travels through a tube to a pad, where the water is circulated. The pad, by the way, is wrapped around the affected body part.
I recently misplaced my jar opener, and I sure do miss it! Hubby might miss it even more because he’s now my full time human jar opener. Jar openers run the gamut from simple grips to electric models, with everything in between. You can find jar openers that fit under the counter, under the cabinet, on the wall, or on top of the counter. Automatic jar openers are great gifts for people who have little grip strength. With just the touch of a button, jars and bottles can be opened quickly and effortlessly – no husband required!
Going to a center or clinic and getting a massage from a licensed professional is awesome, but sometimes you just don't feel like getting out. Besides, such massages can really add up in cost. With a massage cushion, however, you can get a nice massage in the privacy of your own home. Just place the massage cushion in your favorite chair, get comfortable, and turn it on. I have two massage cushions, and each one delivers a slightly different massage and focuses on different problem areas. Both these massage cushions were Christmas gifts, by the way - very much appreciated gifts! Rest assured that anyone with back, neck, or shoulder pain would love to receive a massage cushion.
Even better than a standard massage cushion is one that provides heat. On most models, the amount of heat can be adjusted to the perfect comfort level for the user. This is a great way to combine a massage with the soothing benefits of heat.
Shoes can be good gifts for people with osteoarthritis. Most orthopedic shoes provide extra stability, extra support, and extra comfort. All sorts of styles are available, including shoes for men, women, and children. Orthopedic shoes aren’t just the “old lady” type of shoes some people often associate with the term. You can find dress shoes, sandals, clogs, mary janes, and thongs. In fact, shoes don’t necessarily have to be labeled as “orthopedic” to be beneficial to arthritis sufferers. I find that just about any comfortable shoe with a thick cushioned sole is better for my back, hip, and knee. The cushiony rubber provides a shock-absorbing action that makes walking less painful. Most running shoes and jogging shoes work well, but I also have sandals and even flip-flops that help. Okay, I’ll admit that I’m somewhat of a shoe freak. Good supportive shoes can definitely be good gifts for people with osteoarthritis!
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on August 20, 2012:
Very useful and informative. I am amazed, Habee that despite your ostheoarthritis you still manage to write such wonderful hubs:)
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on August 20, 2012:
TToombs, glad you stopped by!
Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 20, 2012:
habee, these are some great ideas and something a lot of us probably don't give a second thought to. Thank you for this. :) Great work.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on August 19, 2012:
Thanks a bunch, summerberrie!
summerberrie on August 19, 2012:
A really heart felt hub! What a great lists with many useful and caring gift ideas.