There are many different types of arthritis which can affect people of all ages, but arthritis doesn’t just affect the person with the disease, it can also affect the people close to them.
It can seem quite overwhelming when someone we love is first diagnosed with arthritis. Family members may take on extra roles to help pick up the load. And while that may be a good short term solution.
Arthritis is a long term condition. That means that caregivers can become exhausted and even resentful as they pick up more responsibilities to help support their loved one. Here are three things you can consider if you are supporting a family member with arthritis. First, understand the disease. Most of us may not know much about arthritis until someone in our life is diagnosed with it. In many cases, arthritis is an invisible condition and may be unpredictable from the outside.
A person may look fine, making it difficult to really understand what they are experiencing, and that experience can change from one day to the next. Frustration, guilt and fear are all normal and common reactions to change and loss. Remember that no one is to blame for causing arthritis. Take every opportunity to learn more about it.
Families often feel more encouraged when they can come together and learn creative and flexible ways to adjust to the changes that arthritis requires. Second, practice self-care. When you’re caring for others, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself.
For example, if your family member is unable to attend a planned event, tried to find an arrangement that allows you to still go while also giving permission to your family member to rest or participate in a different way. Working together to find a solution that can meet both your needs doesn’t always require putting your own life on hold.
Self-care can also include small things like listening to your own body when tired. Just remember that if your own well-being is suffering, you’re not going to be of as much help to your loved one or to yourself. And third, communication is key. Even when we know someone well, we can’t always assume we know their thoughts.
Communication isn’t about just venting all our frustrations. It’s about each person describing their desires, their limitations, what they may need help with and what they can manage on their own. Feelings of guilt can sometimes make us do more for others than they really need or want. So really, listen to your loved one and make sure you’re sharing your needs too. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
It can help to reduce stress and keep challenges more manageable as you adapt to your new life together.