Women still spend more time than their male counterparts on caring for families and managing household activities. Because of this, women often put others’ needs ahead of their own health and well-being.
However, studies show that when a woman is diagnosed with a disease, her social network and relationships can affect her long-term health. This is true for chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) where close relationships can lead to better physical and emotional health, and the ability to complete daily tasks more easily.
Women are two times more likely to be diagnosed with RA than men, with the average age of diagnosis between 30 and 50 years old, according to the Arthritis Foundation. While sometimes hard to detect, RA is an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic joint pain, stiffness and swelling that can cause permanent joint damage. Seemingly simple tasks, like getting dressed or tying shoes, can become painful chores for women with RA.
Though loved ones and friends cannot reduce the painful physical symptoms of RA, they can play an important role in helping manage the disease. “Patients with a strong support network tend to be in better control of the disease,” says Dr. John Klippel, chief executive officer of the Arthritis Foundation.
For women diagnosed with RA, creating a group of friends and family who can offer help is important to contribute to a better quality of life through emotional support and assistance with everyday tasks. Try these suggestions:
• Develop a list of friends and family who would be willing to help.
• Tell the people on your list exactly the type of help you may need.
• Keep a detailed calendar to schedule specific chores, exercises and more where you may need assistance.
• Consider professional services for physically challenging tasks like mowing the lawn, cleaning gutters and more.
With a strong support system in place, women with RA can face their condition with less worry by knowing that someone is always available to offer encouragement, companionship and assistance, if needed.
There are tools and programs that help patients and doctors work together to manage health conditions like RA and help teach patients to communicate about their symptoms and disease management. The Arthritis Foundation’s “Let’s Talk RA” program provides a free Communication Kit that includes step-by-step discussion tips, as well as a symptom tracker that patients can use with their rheumatologists.
The “Let’s Talk RA” Communication Kit, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, can be ordered at no charge from the Arthritis Foundation Web site, www.arthritis.org/ LetsTalkRA or by calling (800) 283-7800.
Courtesy of ARAcontent