Rheumatoid Arthritis Holiday Gift Guide
What’s a Good Holiday Gift for a Person with RA?
If you ask someone on your list with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) what they want this holiday season, they’ll likely say “a cure!”—and they wouldn’t be joking. But since a gift that awesome is really up to medical science, and not you, you’ll just have to make do with something else.
People who have RA are intimately familiar with joint pain. Sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s only a nuisance, but it’s just about always there. Holiday gifts that can ease or soothe pain will always be very welcomed, and your thoughtful gift will be greatly appreciated.
Leslie A. Vandever has had RA for 26 years. A professional journalist, she started writing the blog RheumaBlog under the pen-name "Wren" in 2009 as a way to help and support others who have the disease.
Give the Gift of a Clean House
It’s estimated that 1.3 million people are living with RA in the US. Women are three times more likely than men to be affected. And the stiffness and pain that comes with RA makes everyday tasks like cleaning and cooking overwhelming, and at times very hard to accomplish.
Consider a gift certificate for a free housecleaning by a professional housekeeping company. Care.com can help you find one in your area. Alternately, you can make a homemade gift certificate pledging that you’ll do the cleaning once (or even several times during the coming year). It will help your friend or family member keep their home neat and clean, a gift that will do wonders for their mental health and sense of well being.
Books About RA
One of the best ways to cope with RA is to learn everything you can about it. Knowledge is strength! There are a lot of excellent books about RA: some of them deal with the physiology of the disease—what it is, what it does in the body, what you can do about it. Others touch on ways to deal with the mental health aspects of the disease, such as depression.
One of the best books out there is Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain by Lene Andersen, available from Amazon.com as a paperback or as an eBook. Other good reads on RA include Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis by James McGuire; and A Resilient Life by Kat Elton (available only in paperback on Amazon.com). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness by Jon Kabat Zinn isn’t about RA alone, but it presents a valuable coping tool. It’s available as a paperback, eBook, or audio edition from Amazon.com
Gifts that Soothe Pain
Living every day with RA can be a real challenge, but there are products available that can make that challenge a little easier. These include sprays, creams, and salves that soothe joint pain, such as BioFreeze and Tiger Balm. Gently spraying them on or rubbing them into the skin over the painful joint combines warmth and coolness for a soothing remedy. For a unique way to soothe pain and combat swelling, Physicool is now available. It’s a stretchy, reusable bandage that combines cooling, compression, and support for painful, swollen joints.
A warm bath can also be an effective remedy for someone with RA. Consider the gift of herbal bath salts and oils that combine aromatherapy with deep-heating ingredients.
The Paraffin Bath: A Gift of Deep Warmth
Another effective healing product is the Thermal Therapy Paraffin Bath from Sharper Image. Coating painful and swollen hands or feet with layers of warm, melted paraffin is an excellent therapy for RA. The paraffin, which can be purchased scented or unscented, quickly solidifies and sends soothing heat deep into the joints. And an added bonus: the paraffin wax also makes the skin very soft after application.
Hot and Cold Packs
Soft bags filled with dried beans or rice, sometimes scented with flower extracts or spices, make wonderful, penetrating heat or cold packs for aching joints. A minute or so in the microwave, or a brief stay in the freezer, makes them ready for use. And they’re reusable! Check out the Original Bed Buddy, which comes in several sizes and shapes, scented or unscented. The moist heat they emit is safe and lasts for about an hour.
Other heat and cold packs available are filled with gels that last longer after heating or freezing. Look for the nylon Deluxe Reusable Hot/Cold Gel Pack from bestmassage.com. Patches, like ThermaCare Heatwraps, can be very soothing as well.
Support for Painful Joints
Splints and braces of various types can help support and protect painful joints during RA flare-ups. They include hand-and wrist-braces, compression/warming gloves, stretchy compression bandages, finger splints, shoulder supports, and knee-and-ankle splints. Check out Walgreen’s Finger Splint or the Futuro wrist support brace.
Gifts That Make Cooking Easier
Cooking can be a real challenge for people with RA: cutting and chopping vegetables and lifting heavy pots from the stove and pouring from heavy containers can stress arthritic joints and cause a lot of pain. There are products that can make those tasks easier to do and easier on the joints, too. Two-handled pots and pans from Tramontina are really helpful for people with RA. Oxo Good Grips makes a whole line of kitchen tools that have soft, thick grips for achy hands. And to ease the frustration of trying to open a jar, Oxo makes a jar opener that’s quick, easy, and requires very little force. Or get one that installs under the counter. Other useful kitchen gifts include adaptive knives like rocker knives, rocking T knives, and an electric corkscrew.
Tools to Make Life with RA Easier
RA can make it difficult to perform some of the simplest things: reaching up into a cupboard, getting your feet into your shoes, or holding onto a coffee cup or a fork. Thankfully, there are plenty of items available that are made specifically to help with the little things. Like a reacher-grabber tool, made just for reaching items that are just out of reach, or a shoehorn with a long handle to help with shoes when hips are achy and sore. And there are specially designed cups and utensils too, which make life with RA a little bit easier.
A Gift of Cozy Warmth
There is almost nothing in the world as comfortable as a warm bed. Make sure that your friend or family member with RA has the warmest bed ever with an electric blanket or mattress pad. Soft warmth feels very soothing to throbbing, arthritic joints. These days, electric blankets and mattress pads are made with dual controls so the person who wants a warmer bed can have one, while their partner can set their desired temperature.
Replace Doorknobs with Lever Handles
This gift might require some handyman skills, but it’s sure to be a hit. Small, round doorknobs are often difficult—and painful—for a person with RA to grasp and turn, but levers only require a push. And if the hands are too impaired even for that, a lever can be operated with a bent elbow. It seems like such a little thing, but replacing doorknobs with lever handles will be a gift that will be appreciated for years to come.
A Gift to Make RA Feet Happy
People with RA often have painful, aching feet. There’s a whole galaxy of gifts available to help make those feet—and their owner—happy. Consider getting your friend or loved one with RA a pair of boiled wool slippers from Haflinger. They’re soft and warm, with a roomy toebox that’s perfect for finicky toes. Another great gift is a pair of socks made with bamboo viscose—just about the softest material you can imagine. And warm! Check out the collection at Ecosox.
Your Gift Can Make a Difference
People living with RA battle chronic joint pain, swelling, and stiffness every day. While there’s no known cure, there are plenty of options available to help ease symptoms. Use our recommendations and give a gift that can help make everyday life a little easier for someone with RA.