Looking After a Loved One With RA: 4 Caregiving Tips

Looking After a Loved One With RA: 4 Caregiving Tips

The flare-ups, joint stiffness and constant aches that accompany rheumatoid arthritis can be hard on the person who lives with the autoimmune disease -- as well their loved ones. If you’re caring for someone in chronic pain, it can feel like your best isn’t enough. But you don’t have to feel defeated. Check out these four tactics that can help you better respond to your loved one’s condition:

#1) Consider sharing the caregiver responsibilities.
According to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey, the average caregiver is a woman in her late 40s with a job (outside the house) who cares for an aging parent, as well as her own nuclear family. Even if this description doesn’t match you exactly, that’s still a lot on one person’s plate! If you’re having trouble keeping your head above water, you may want to hire an expert caregiver -- or ask a family member -- to share the burden. Help can come from home health nurses, personal care assistance, respite care or even a caregiver education course. A professional may be better trained and equipped to handle rheumatoid arthritis concerns and help you understand the disease – while also giving you a break from your draining lifestyle.

#2) Become an expert at de-stressing techniques.
It may seem like the link between stress and rheumatoid arthritis is a brutal, constant cycle. The pain brings on stress and more stress turns around and makes the pain worse. Get together with your loved one’s health providers and see what sort of plan you can put in place to keep stress and inflammation at a minimum. Things like meditation, massages and social outings are also great ways to tame stress, both for you and your loved one.

#3) Think outside the box to cope with RA pains.
Just because pain is common when it comes to RA, that doesn’t mean it should be labeled as the norm. Be on the lookout for changes in habits or discomfort levels, like sleeping more than usual or flares that last too long. Consider consulting with the doctor to see if a medication dosage needs to be adjusted. Or look into holistic and natural treatments as an alternate route.

#4) Don’t forget to show yourself some TLC.
If you have your mental and physical health under wraps, you’re in better shape to look after someone else’s. Research suggests that between 40 to 70% of caregivers have symptoms of depression. Whether it’s a close friend or a mental health specialist, make sure you’re able to talk to someone about your stresses, too. And don’t forget about your physical health. Carve time into your day to take a brisk walk around your neighborhood (all you need is 30 minutes a day) or do workouts that you can do at home. If possible, try fitness with your loved one with RA -- exercise can sometimes work as a great pain reliever and help loosen up achy joints. 

Visit our Caregiving Topic Center for more tips on how to better manage your caregiving duties.

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

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