There is a 100% chance that you know someone with arthritis. 1 in 5 Americans live with some kind of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, which can be any of 100 rheumatic diseases. Living with arthritis is hard – there’s no way around that. Today I want to talk about how you can help the arthritis sufferers in your life and make their life a little bit easier.
Offer specific help – It’s hard to accept help in general (at least for me), but when someone offers help with a specific task, it is much easier to accept than if they offer help as a general construct. For example, offer to bring food or drive them somewhere.
Listen to them when they need to talk – Sometimes, we just need to talk about how we’re feeling (physically or emotionally). In these cases, there probably isn’t anything you can do. But that’s fine, because we’re not asking you to fix us. We just need to talk about how we feel.
Suggest low-impact activities to do together – They might have limited energy and high pain on any given day, so a cycling class or art walk might not be a good idea. Make it yoga or an art museum where they can have a wheelchair, though, and they might be up for it.
At events, offer chairs to sit in if it’s needed – When I go to events, I almost always need a chair to sit in. This isn’t always available, and if a chair is available, it often means that I have to sit alone at the back of the room. Offering a chair if you’re the host or offering to sit with them can make them feel a lot better.
Don’t be offended if they cancel regularly – Arthritis can take a lot out of us, and it isn’t always predictable. We rarely know how we’re going to feel in the future, and no one wants to plan on being absent from something when it isn’t a given. As a result, we may cancel on a regular basis, but I can guarantee that it isn’t personal. (Unless, you know, you’re an awful person.)
Show your support for the cause – I can’t even begin to explain how much it means to me when people show support for arthritis awareness and raising money for arthritis research. You can do this by sharing statistics about arthritis and the stories of people who live with it, as well as donating to organizations that support and fund arthritis research. You can also do that by donating when someone is raising money via Walk To Cure Arthritis or Racing for a Cure.
Educate yourself – People believing incorrect things is annoying (or sometimes hurtful) enough as it is, but when it comes from someone close – a friend, family member, etc. – it hurts much worse. If you believe that arthritis isn’t a big deal and the person with it is exaggerating, please read this post.
Don’t give unsolicited medical advice – If I had a dollar for every person who had given me medical advice without a) knowing much about my personal health issues and b) being asked for it, I would be very, very rich. Unless you are a rheumatologist who has examined the person with arthritis, don’t give advice unasked for. ESPECIALLY don’t say something like, “My cousin/neighbor/random acquaintance has arthritis, and *insert random treatment here* cured them!” First of all, there’s no cure for arthritis. There is remission, but there’s no cure. Second of all, you have no idea if a) the person you mentioned has the same kind of arthritis/situation as the person you’re talking to b) the treatment works on the type of arthritis that the person you’re talking to has c) if the person you’re talking to has tried the treatment mentioned and it hasn’t worked or d) if the treatment actually works at all. You may think you know all of those things, and you may know one or two of them, but I can guarantee that you don’t know all of them with 100% certainty. If, after all of this, you still feel the need to send unsolicited medical advice, check out this post on four questions to ask yourself before sending unsolicited medical advice online.
Learn more about arthritis with these posts:
To the Loved Ones of People with Arthritis
Is Arthritis a Big Deal?
Arthritis Info: Everything You Absolutely Need To Know
The 8 Things a Millennial with Arthritis Wants You To Know
So Someone You Know What Diagnosed with Arthritis
Not All Disabilities Are Visible
We Need To Talk About Ableism