Helping person in wheelchair

The diagnosis of arthritis can be difficult and may cause those diagnosed to feel isolated or alone. Friends and family often form a major support network for arthritis sufferers, so understanding how to best care for your loved one can be instrumental in a more positive approach to their condition. The early stages following initial diagnosis can be the hardest time, so easing the transition to a more manageable lifestyle quickly can be a great source of improved wellbeing.

What you should know
The first step toward helping to care for your loved one with arthritis is understanding the effects of the condition. There are a number of variations of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout. Each experience differing levels of discomfort or pain and limitations with mobility. Understanding how a particular condition affects your family or friend can make it easier to support them.

Some of the more common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Decreased muscle strength and function
  • Difficulty with functional mobility

One of the best ways to understand which of these symptoms they are experiencing is to discuss their limitations or how it affects their day to day activities. This will then help you to find ways which offer the most support that caters to their needs.

How to assist physically
Depending on how much your loved one is restricted by their arthritis will determine how much assistance they may require physically. Common issues the condition causes include limited ability to bend, kneel, walk, and reach as joints are a key area affected by arthritis. A few ways that you can help your family or friend to ease the burden of arthritis include:

  • Encouraging them to be as active as possible. Gentle movements such as non-strenuous walking, water-based activities or, in general, just keeping up and about helps to maintain Sedentary behaviour can contribute to a further reduction in mobility.
  • Offering to assist with activities that may be affected by their arthritis. This could be anything from assisting with household chores and shopping to helping them with transport.
  • Helping with making sure they are eating a healthy and balanced diet with appropriate portion sizes. Pain may deter people from maintaining a healthy eating schedule and diet.
  • Assisting them in taking their medication which can help make the pain more manageable and reduce symptoms of their arthritis, providing a more comfortable quality of life.
  • Helping them to make adjustments around the home that will make getting around easier. Changes could include new seating for more comfortable reading and computer use or investing in a digital assistant such as a Google Home.

How to assist emotionally
There is more to assisting your loved one than physical help. A big part of supporting them is by letting them know you’re there for them emotionally too. Open communication between yourself and the person you care for is instrumental in the management of their arthritis. Here are a few ways you can help emotionally:

  • Let them know you’re there for them, showing you care and vocalising your support is key.
  • If you suspect they are depressed, encourage them to talk to their GP about management options. If they’re comfortable with you attending with them, it can provide additional support and encouragement.
  • Help them to remain positive and enthusiastic about the mobility and abilities they still have.
  • Work with them to find a new hobby or interest if activities they previously participated in are now difficult.
  • Remind them to ask for extra help if they need it, let them know they aren’t a burden and you’re there to assist.

By working on a relationship of trust and support, caring for your loved one will be easier as they will feel more comfortable to ask for the assistance they need. Accepting the limitations associated with arthritis and discovering new interests and opportunities are made better with a solid support network. Showing your loved one you’re there for them both physically and emotionally will make navigating their condition easier. Understanding how arthritis affects their life will encourage a stronger relationship for both of you.

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