Hundreds of our RheumatoidArthritis.net community members recently participated in the “Handling the Holidays” survey; Thanks to everyone who took the survey! As we know, the holidays can be a wonderful time to celebrate, spend time with friends and family, and hopefully enjoy some downtime. Almost everyone who participated in the survey said they plan to make the time they spend with friends and family extra special during the holiday season (97%). Unfortunately, the season can also be stressful, particularly for individuals living with a chronic condition such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
The holidays and parties go hand in hand, and almost all survey participants indicated they enjoy spending more time with their friends and family during the holiday season. In fact, respondents were planning to celebrate an average of 4 holidays! While special events are a great opportunity to get out of the house to celebrate with our loved ones, long distance travel can be difficult (46%) particularly as cold weather is a challenge in itself (mentioned by 70% of respondents).
Attending holiday events or parties was reported as a struggle for 53% of individuals, and 92% reported that they will skip attending a party or event this holiday season. Although the need to include some down-time is critical for RA management, most respondents felt guilty about missing out on events (91%). Unfortunately 75% of those surveyed feel that friends and family don’t understand why they miss out. This can be especially frustrating given the unpredictable nature of RA. Many people mentioned this lack of predictability as an added stressor while planning for events, as flares and symptoms can be near-impossible to plan around. Sadly, 92% of respondents mentioned that they worry about disappointing others.
Because hosting events can be especially stressful, a majority of respondents reported that they plan parties well in advance (81%). Several other recommendations were made to ease the burden of party planning, including potluck dinners, cookie exchanges, and disposable serving wear. Fortunately, very few respondents felt that food or alcohol restrictions got in the way of planning or participating in activities (19% and 22% respectively).
When it comes to enjoying the holiday season despite RA, many of our members recommended a “quality over quantity” approach, focusing on a few special events rather than a multitude of activities. Do you have any tips for holiday party planning, whether it be for hosting or attending? How do you handle the unpredictable nature of RA and family or friends who may not understand your limitations?
The 264 RA patients surveyed were followers of RheumatoidArthritis.net; 97% were female and 3% male, ranging in age from 20 to 73. 59% of those surveyed were diagnosed with RA more than 3 years ago and 14% within the past year. Among those surveyed, 77% were married or in a committed long-term relationship and 81% had children. Of those with children, about 6 out 10 individuals’ children were all over the age of 18.