RA and Preparing for Event Accommodations
Last updated: June 2022
I love going to events. Things like concerts, listening to speakers, book tours, comedy shows, exhibits, conferences, comic con - you name it, and I've likely considered attending it.
The challenge of attending live events with RA
Living with rheumatoid arthritis means that I am no stranger to joint pain, weakness, and fatigue - even on my "best" days. It means that every time I plan to do anything, from going grocery shopping to attending a friend's birthday party to a widely popular conference, I must think about every single part of the process. I have to contemplate what I wear (most notably footwear), what time I go, how I get there, how long I stay, how much walking or standing I do, what I bring to eat and drink while I'm out, and how much I'm carrying. The list can keep going.
Tips to help you prepare for activities
It's draining to plan for these things, but it's less draining than dealing with the major consequences to my body afterward if I don't plan!
Make sure you have a seat available
I don't do well with standing for long periods of time, so for concerts, shows, and performances, I always ensure that I have a seat available to me. This is really important, as I've been to events without seating options and I usually end up seated on the floor against the wall or being forced to leave early and feel extra frustrated with my body.
If walking is involved, a wheelchair may help
For events such as conferences, exhibits, or anything that requires a lot of walking, I have learned that my body absolutely needs extra support. In the last several years, this has looked like wheelchair rentals at events or conference centers when I go with my husband or a friend. Saving myself the pain and agony of walking long distances on less than ideal surfaces prevents significant and sometimes long-lasting pain, meaning I can enjoy the event in the present and not pay for it in the future. Sometimes, I'm asked why I need this by the event management, the company renting the wheelchair, or nearby friends. My answer is always the same and straightforward: "I live with an autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis which causes me significant joint pain and weakness." I've never been questioned beyond that.
Drinking water and staying hydrated is also really important. Some of the medications I take to manage RA and its symptoms can dehydrate me easily, and not staying hydrated means struggling with things like dizziness, nausea, weakness, and even fainting. Things that I pretty much always like to avoid, but are especially important when I'm in a crowd.
Pack a bag with essentials
I mentioned earlier that I need to consider the things I carry. Sometimes events and exhibits require you to have a clear bag so the security can quickly see inside. A long time ago I invested in a clear plastic backpack, which I can wear and is approved for carrying at nearly every event. Inside, I ensure I have two doses of all my regular am/pm meds, along with any extra medications that may be needed.
Other items you may wish to bring
I also carry an oral rehydration solution powder (like Drip Drop or Liquid IV) to navigate any potential dehydration. I bring a water bottle, and a few snacks. My go-to snacks are things like plain carb-like crackers or pretzels in case my stomach gets upset, something with protein to give me an energy boost, and something sweet in case I need sugar. I always carry extra socks, bandaids, chapstick, lotion and hand sanitizer, but that's not specific to RA.
How do you prepare for event accommodations? I'd love to read your recommendations below.
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