Dr. Chris Phillips
Caretakers’ Guide for Rheumatoid Arthritis: 15 Tips When Supporting an RA Patient
Are you a caregiver for a loved one with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Do you provide support and medical care to someone with an autoimmune disease?
With autoimmune diseases becoming more and more prevalent, many of us know an individual or two impacted by rheumatoid arthritis.
For you, perhaps it’s your spouse that battles RA? Or maybe your mother or father? Possibly a son, daughter, sibling, or extended family member?
As a caregiver, you see the effects of RA in real time. You witness it, you live it.
If you’ve been in this position, you know how difficult it is. And we agree! Being a caregiver is a demanding job, so that’s why we strive to provide support to both our patients and their caregivers.
We know that caregivers play a critical role in the wellbeing of our patients, and for this, we THANK YOU!
Thank you for your dedication to improving the quality of life for an individual battling the challenges that come with an autoimmune disease.
A Caregiver’s Guide
Here at Paducah Rheumatology, we also want to help our patients live a long and fulfilling life, and one way we accomplish this goal is through patient and caregiver education.
Caring for an individual with RA is a group effort. All parties involved must understand what is required to manage an autoimmune disease. We feel education is key. When you learn about the effects of RA, then you can be better prepared as a caregiver.
Being a caregiver is no simple task, and we have 15 suggestions designed to help caregivers in their role.
#1 Support HEALTHY HABITS: Many of our patients have great success managing their RA through lifestyle choices. Diet and exercise are at the top of that list. On the other hand, smoking and obesity are known to increase inflammation, leading to more severe RA symptoms.
#2 Encourage DAILY EXERCISE: RA feeds off a sedentary lifestyle. Help your loved one find ways to incorporate movement into their daily routine. Even a slow walk around the neighborhood is beneficial.
#3 Serve a BALANCED DIET: Certain foods can lead to flare-ups. Consider following an anti-inflammatory diet. The general rule of thumb is to eat meals prepared with fresh ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, while consuming less pre-prepared meals, fried foods, processed meats, and sugary sweets.
#4 Seek out MEDICAL RESOURCES: Medical professionals are wonderful resources with a wealth of knowledge to share. Many RA patients experience great results when attending occupational therapy and/or physical therapy.
#5 Monitor MEDICATIONS: Skipping medications is extremely counterproductive and can lead to debilitating consequences. If you suspect the medication regime needs tweaking, do not be afraid to bring that up to their healthcare team.
#6 Be prepared for FLARES: Even with your best efforts to avoid flare-ups, they are bound to happen. RA is unforgiving and does not care if you have an important upcoming event. Some extra TLC goes a long way during a flare.
#7 Watch the WEATHER: While it may sound like an old wives tale, weather patterns often impact RA patients. Plan activities around the weather, or be willing to adjust when the weather packs a punch.
#8 Do not forget PAIN MANAGEMENT: RA is more than a disease of creaky joints and stiff hinges. Many patients are in a constant state of pain, and chronic pain leads to all sorts of other ailments.
#9 Be patient with FATIGUE: Autoimmune diseases are tough on the body, and RA is no exception. Plus, sleep can be hard to come by for many RA patients, causing further fatigue.
#10 Beware of WEAKNESS: Use extra caution when assisting your loved one up and down stairs. Furthermore, it’s probably best to have them avoid lifting heavy items.
#11 Assist with MENTAL HEALTH: Depression tends to go hand-in-hand with autoimmune diseases. Look for the signs and symptoms of poor mental health, and seek professional help if necessary.
#12 Reorganize the HOUSE: Making items more accessible within their own living space can help RA patients be independent.
#13 Maintain OPEN COMMUNICATION: Do not miss doctor visits. You might be tempted to skip an appointment, but consistent communication with their healthcare team is critically important.
#14 Keep up with SELF-CARE: Allow others to assist you. A caregiver often wears many hats, which leads to burnout. Rather, take the time to care for yourself and look after your own needs.
#15 Find a SUPPORT GROUP: When you receive emotional support, you can then give emotional support. You might even discover new ways to accomplish your caregiver tasks as you listen to others share their experiences.
The Role of a Caregiver
When you are a caregiver, you see the realities of RA. Watching over a loved one with RA can be physically demanding, emotionally exhausting, and mentally draining.
Our healthcare team at Paducah Rheumatology is here for you.
With a physician’s referral, we are able to set up a new patient appointment. Feel free to give us a call at 270-408-6100 with any questions.
We look forward to helping you provide the best care possible to your loved one!