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A small gift can make a big difference, especially as someone living with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). In 2017 I made a list of items and gadgets that help me live more easily. As my health worsens, I’m constantly discovering gadgets, so I made a new list. This can be a useful guide for year-round giving, not just during the holidays.
I use all of these products myself, so I feel comfortable recommending them, but that doesn’t mean they will help everyone living with AS.
One of the most damaging things you can do is try to help someone the way you think they need to be helped, without first finding out what would actually help. So ask some sneaky questions to find out if a certain gift would be welcome before you surprise your loved one or friend with a box of goodies you think should help them.
Pro-tip, include gift receipts so they can exchange things if need be. Even better if you include a funny card that says,
“You’re incurable, I’m clueless, so trade this stuff in if I missed the mark. After all, I can’t even pronounce your disease – you’re the expert of your body, and I just want to help. BeingCharis told me to write this.”
Note: prices below are as of the date published.
For fingers and wrists in pain
1. A gadget to help get out the last of that toothpaste or pain cream. Because squeezing a tube can cause a lot of pain.
2. A hooked opener for cans that open with a tab. I use these daily when feeding my cats.
3. Jar opener for many lid sizes – This funny-looking thing uses the laws of physics to open impossible jars.
4. Easy-cut fingernail clippers – The clipper part swivels so you don’t have to move your wrist at such an odd angle, and the lever is spring-loaded. I had to ask people to cut my nails for me before this came along.
6. Lamp switch helper – this 3-sided nob thing attaches to many lamps to make rotating them on/off SO much easier. I’ve heard they can help remove toothpaste lids, too!
7. Wrist brace, splint style – I wear this many nights and often when I’m typing. My pain is drastically reduced while I’m wearing it. Reminder to check with doctors before using such things, as they should have a say in your treatment decisions (also, you can ask for insurance to cover some custom wrist braces, too).
8. Finger “Oval 8” splints – These help stabilize and support finger joints, especially if bending them or grasping objects causes pain. The sizing can be confusing, so I’ve gotten all the sizes over time and use them all on different fingers as needed.
9. Key adapter – unlocking/locking my apartment door has never been so painless.
10. Lazy Hands phone grip – I don’t know how I’d hold my phone without one. My fingers and hands don’t have to work so hard and I definitely drop my phone less.
11. Travel-sized hand sanitizer that attaches to almost anything. For those of us who are immunocompromised, this stuff is gold. I have one on my wheelchair, my keychain, and sometimes on grocery bags. While you’re at it, throw in a refill bottle.
12. A reusable, washable fabric facemask with many designs to choose from. Because I’m immunocompromised, I wear these on the plane, train, bus, at doctor offices, and where I expect to be exposed to more people and airborne germs than usual. Please note that NIOSH-approved facemasks and filters provide the most reliable air filtration, and that the links I’ve shared are to products that do not boast NIOSH-approval. I share this so you can make an informed decision as a consumer.
General AS pain
13. Long-handled shoe horn – I thought these were silly-but-useful when I was a kid, but I never knew how much I would rely on one as an adult. Best tool ever.
14. Kneeling pad – Use it in the garden, then use it in the tub (just kidding, that could get messy). I take lots of baths and rely on having a cushion for my weary bum. I bet this would be amazing to have on a shower chair, too.
15. This inflatable seat cushion – I use this for travel or around town when I don’t know what kind of chairs will be available – it’s lightweight and strong. Comfort is vital when it can prevent a flare!
16. Knee compression brace – Especially in the winter or during rainy seasons, my knees throb constantly unless I use these compression sleeves to reduce the pain.
17. Heel/ankle/plantar fascia compression sleeve – Again, when it’s cold or rainy, all my joints are so much worse. I often can’t sleep unless I have some form of compression around my smaller joints.
18. Becoming Incurable shirt ($25-27) – While supplies last! Hurry! Hey, did you know my story is featured in a documentary about living with chronic disease? Support the film by buying one of these for your friend/loved one AND one for yourself. Who wouldn’t want to wear a shirt with my eyes on it to raise awareness? (Follow the film on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter)
19. Another awareness shirt (price varies by shirt style) – I designed this on Zazzle. It’s simple, but necessary, saying, “Cure Ankylosing Spondylitis.”
20. This Chanasya blanket is in the running for my most favorite blanket I’ve ever had. Ever.
21. I use dry-erase boards for so many things because it’s easier on my hands to write with markers than with pen, and I can see my to-do lists without having to look on a phone or laptop. It also saves paper. I have one on the fridge and one near my bed to keep track of to-do lists, to-buy lists, bucket lists, and sometimes even motivational quotes.
22. Gift cards! Always gift cards! Gift cards for food-delivery (like GrubHub – here’s a discount on your first order), groceries, restaurants, pharmacies, and more.
23. Tickets to experiences, like a concert, theater performance, or the movie theater. Be sure to ask your friend if they need accessible seating.
24. Amazon Echo Dot (or any smart speaker) and compatible smart home devices, like smart plugs. Controlling my lights and other home electronics with my voice, asking Alexa to meditate me to sleep, and asking about the weather or a recipe without having to touch my phone has saved a lot of energy and reduced my fatigue considerably.
More expensive stuff
25. A weighted blanket. I can’t sleep without mine – I’ve tried! Most sources I’ve researched suggest the proper weight for a weighted blanket is about 10% of your body weight plus 1-3 pounds. Please do your research before you invest in this item!
26. Blue Air Purifier – rarely do I recommend a brand solely because of the brand, but this air purifier became my lifeline this year when air quality levels reached the hazardous level because of wildfires in California. I wrote about how friends pitched in to buy this for me for more information.
27. Oxford Textbook of Axial Spondyloarthritis – this (text)book is the best thing for spondylitis nerds and anyone hoping to learn technical information about the class of diseases. I haven’t gone a single page without highlighting something.
28. Subscription memberships to sites that offer regular delivery of items (whether physical or digital): grocery store delivery, Amazon Prime, Netflix, meal prep boxes, subscription boxes…
29. An overnight stay in a nice hotel. Make it feel like a vacation just by giving your friend/loved one the gift of a clean, quiet room away from home for a night, even if it’s a mile from where they live.
I hope this guide is helpful as you shop for that special person in your life who has ankylosing spondylitis, whether it’s for a surprise care package or a gift under the tree. I want to again stress that while these products are helpful for me, they won’t be helpful to everyone with AS.
If you missed it, be sure to check out my AS gift list from 2017.
Lastly, gifts come in many forms. I hope you’ll also give the gift of showing that you are taking steps to learn about the disease, too. Check out my Spondylitis Resources page to take the first step.
If you found this post useful in some way, please consider supporting my work with a $3 tip at ko-fi.com/beingcharis. Your support will help me keep the lights on and make me smile.