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Caregiving is a tough job for anyone. This article outlines six tips to help people with arthritis as a caregiver.

Arthritis is a disease that is characterized by joint inflammation, swelling and pain. Arthritis can be debilitating and cause patients to need the help of a caretaker. A caretaker is usually a loved one, such as a child or a spouse.

While it is extremely beneficial for patients with arthritis to have a caretaker, particularly as they get older and have more functional limitations, it is important to keep in mind that being a caretaker is hard and can be emotionally difficult. Patients with arthritis can go through several ups and downs during their disease course, which is not only hard for the patient but also hard for the people around them. Everyone’s disease is a little different and therefore, there is no guidebook on how exactly you should take care of a loved one with arthritis.

These are six tips to help people with arthritis.

1. Be educated about arthritis

Education is key when it comes to dealing with any disease. The more you know about arthritis, and the specific subtype of arthritis that your loved one has, the better you will be able to deal with complications of the disease. Also, learn about the different types of medications that your loved one is taking as some of them have side effects that you may need to watch out for and deal with. You will also be more informed about the next stages of the disease and what to watch out for.

2. Be well rested and keep your energy levels high

Most caregivers have a job and a family that they need to take care of. Therefore, becoming a caretaker of someone with chronic disease can be exhausting. However, there are several different things you can do to boost your energy levels:

  • Get a good night’s sleep by avoiding watching TV late at night, make your bedroom temperature lower at night and making your bedroom as dark as you can.
  • Eat a healthy diet. This involves avoiding packaged, convenient foods that lead to high blood sugar levels.
  • Exercise, as even as little as 10 to 15 minutes of walking per day can help decrease fatigue and boost energy levels. Go walking with your loved ones with arthritis as exercise is an integral component of treatment of arthritis.

3. Get organized

Being a caretaker is a lot of work and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with all your duties. The best thing to do is to be very organized. In fact, one study found that more than half of caregivers spent 10 hours or more a week providing services to their loved ones with chronic diseases. These can include shopping, taking the patient to the doctor, giving medications, etc... You can use a planner or a computer calendar that can be programed to send you reminders so you don’t miss doctor’s appointments or other caregiving duties. There are also many mobile phone applications that allow you be more organized.

4. Don’t just rely on yourself

If you have a strong network of family and friends, rely on them for help. You can’t do it all yourself and you will need days off. If family members offer to help, then take it. You need downtime as sometimes, seeing your loved one with a chronic debilitating disease can get you feeling very emotional and sad. When this happens, you will need to take a break and look after yourself. At times like this, you need to be able to reach out to members of your family or friends so they can take over for a little time while you have time to recuperate. If you are feeling extremely down for a long period of time, then you should seek help from a doctor as you may have depression.

5. Joint local support groups

Most cities will have a local chapter of an arthritis support group. Connecting with other people that also have loved ones with the disease is not only beneficial for your emotional and mental health but can also lead to you to becoming more educated about the resources that are available in your community. Furthermore, nobody will understand exactly what you are going through except somebody else in the exact some position. 

6. Don’t attempt to do things that you can’t

Being a caretaker often involves doing things that you physically may not be able to do such as handling heavy equipment or bathing your loved one. In cases like this, many caregivers attempt to do these but fail and often end up hurting themselves. Therefore, you should make a list of all caregiving tasks you do and then point out all the things that are dangerous for you to carry out. Then, you can discuss with your loved one’s physician on how to get these strenuous tasks accomplished. Often times, there is government support for hiring someone to do tasks like this. In other cases, you can ask people you know that are physical stronger to help you.

  • Brouwer, Werner BF, et al. "Burden of caregiving: evidence of objective burden, subjective burden, and quality of life impacts on informal caregivers of patients with rheumatoid arthritis." Arthritis Care & Research 51.4 (2004): 570-577.
  • Jacobi, C. E., et al. "Dimension-specific burden of caregiving among partners of rheumatoid arthritis patients." Rheumatology 42.10 (2003): 1226-1233.
  • Pruchno, Rachel A., and Sheryl L. Potashnik. "Caregiving spouses physical and mental health in perspective." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 37.8 (1989): 697-705.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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