6 Tips on How You Can Help Someone With RA
Someone you know and/or loved one has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. You might be saying to yourself, “Now what?” and “How can I help?” The first thing you need to know is that your support, love, and help are vital. This disease does not just affect your loved one, but it affects their whole family and social circles.
6 ways to support someone with RA
1. Be well-informed
I have always said this when I find myself in situations where I can’t relate. Then I need to learn more about whatever the topic or the situation is about. It is important to stay informed. Reading up on, exploring, and learning about rheumatoid arthritis is key.
Take an interest in what RA is, how it affects the person, the pain, swelling, and fatigue associated with it, what treatments are available, and the side effects someone can endure through the treatment process. Also, recommend to research holistic treatments and the role nutrition can have in helping to control inflammation in the body. Also, learn about the unpredictability of the disease and the need for family and friends to be adaptable.
Listening is such an important thing to do. I find it hard to listen to someone, especially when I find out they have a medical condition. Sometimes, I think I am being helpful with suggestions. However, it’s important to realize that the individual with RA gets talked to a lot from various medical professionals.
They constantly have a lot of information presented to them. It can be very overwhelming. I find that it is most helpful when I contain the urge to speak and just listen. Odds are that the person will let you know their feelings or their needs during the conversation.
3. Ask the need
I have learned, even when I have listened, that sometimes I still have no idea how to help the person. Engage in a conversation with the person and ask simple yet direct questions. It might be helpful to ask, “What do you find you need help with when your RA flares up?” You would be surprised what a simple direct question like this can spur in a conversation.
When my RA flares for me, I need help with meals and laundry. I never asked for help with meals because I eat extremely healthy, with minimal to no processed foods. I never wanted to burden someone. Recently a close friend of mine and I started talking. She suggested that I make a digital cookbook or written cookbook of my favorite recipes. This way my loved ones would have access to my cookbook and cook things I could eat.
4. Understand the grief process
When someone is diagnosed with RA, their entire world is forever changed. Their life plans are altered and they will be grieving the loss of a life that they thought they were going to have.
Please understand that someone dealing with an RA diagnosis will potentially be going through the five stages of grief and loss as developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The five stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Please note that going through the stages does not always happen in order. An individual can enter, exit, and re-enter stages at any time. Please realize that on top of the physical pain they might be in, they are also potentially experiencing emotional pain.
5. Go to medical appointments
If you are a very close friend or family member, ask your loved one if they would like you to come with them to medical appointments. Individuals with RA often do not want to ask for help because they feel like they are becoming a burden. This gesture might be very welcomed.
It is always nice to have two sets of eyes and ears at medical appointments. It’s a great way for you to show them your support and that they are not physically alone in the process. If you do go to medical appointments, my tip is to write things down that you are hearing. This leads to a nice starting point for a conversation.
6. Join an RA support group or an online community
I have learned the best way to understand something is to immerse myself in it. Joining a local support group or online community gives you a chance to learn from other individuals and loved ones going through a very similar situation.
Online communities such as RheumatoidArthritis.net provides a loving and supportive place where you can ask questions and receive helpful advice from others living with RA.
When was your last flare?