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Living with rheumatoid arthritis

5-minute read

Having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) doesn’t necessarily mean you will be restricted in your day-to-day activities.

There is a wide variety of simple and practical home care and lifestyle aids available, designed to help reduce pain associated with your arthritis and improve your comfort, safety and ability to carry out tasks.

In the home

Around your home, products that can help you maintain your independence include:

  • key turners and door knob covers
  • specially designed scissors with large handles
  • book holders to avoid strain on the wrists and joints
  • pick-up reachers (a tong-like implement that makes reaching for and grasping objects easier)
  • rubber grips for pens and pencils. These mean you will not have to grip as hard
  • ejector seat chairs, which may help people with limited mobility
  • light, long-handled brooms and dustpans to avoid bending.

You will also be able to access products to make life easier to get dressed, work in the kitchen or in the garden, or to manage independently in the bathroom.

More information about these type of products can be found at Independent Living Centres Australia on 1300 885 886 or you can call Arthritis Australia on the Arthritis information line 1800 011 041.

Preventative measures

Arthritis can sometimes make you less flexible and less mobile. This can increase your risk of having an accident.

Listed below are a number of measures you can take to limit this risk:

  • Eliminate home hazards - always keep your home well lit and remove all loose wires and cords that you may trip over. Make sure treads, rugs and carpets are secure. Keep rubber mats by the sink and in the bath to prevent slipping and always clean up spills immediately. Install grab rails in the bathroom and toilet to help you stand up without falling. Your doctor may be able to provide support and advice about safety in the home.
  • Improve your balance - exercise that helps improve your balance can prevent a fall. Ideal forms of exercise for improving balance include tai chi, yoga and dance.
  • Exchange high heels for flats - high heels are bad for your posture and make you more prone to falling, so wear flat, comfortable footwear.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol - alcohol can affect your balance, making you more likely to fall.
  • Check your sight - as you get older, you will probably experience some deterioration in your eyesight. It is important to get your sight checked regularly by a qualified optician. Poor eyesight can increase your risk of accident and injury.
  • Ask for help - if you know you have arthritis, avoid standing on chairs to reach high cupboards or change a light bulb or climbing ladders. Also, try to avoid doing chores that you know will cause more pain. Write a list of the jobs that need to be done around the house and save it for the next time your friends or family visit.

Emotional management

It can be hard to deal with the unpredictable nature of rheumatoid arthritis. Some days, the pain and stiffness will be much worse than others, and there is no way to know when a flare-up will occur. Some people develop depression or feelings of stress and anxiety. Sometimes, these feelings can be related to poorly controlled pain or fatigue. Living with any long-term condition makes you more likely to have a range of emotions such as frustration, fear, pain, anger and resentment. You should speak to your doctor if you are concerned.

It helps to talk to your loved ones honestly about how you feel. Talk to your GP if you are distressed. You can hear about how other people have coped with the emotional aspects of RA at www.empowered.org.au

Your GP might put you in touch with a social worker, who can help you access financial and health services that are available, such as pensions or Health Care Concession Cards.

Starting and raising a family

If you are taking medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, let your healthcare team know if you want to start a family. Some drug treatments should not be taken by men or women while they are trying for a baby. Your doctors will work with you to ensure that your rheumatoid arthritis is controlled while you are trying to get pregnant.

Babies and young children are physically and mentally demanding for any parent, but particularly if you have rheumatoid arthritis. If you are struggling to cope, talk to your doctor and other people in the same situation as you. You may also be able to get additional support to help you manage your young family.

Sex and relationships

Pain, discomfort and changes in the way you look and feel can affect your sex life. Your self-esteem or thoughts about how you look may affect your confidence. Although many people find it difficult to talk about such private issues, there are resources that might help you. Talking to your partner or doctor about the impact of rheumatoid arthritis on your sexuality and sexual relationships may help.

More information

Arthritis Australia can provide more information on rheumatoid arthritis through their website at www.arthritisaustralia.com.au, or by calling their Arthritis Information Line on 1800 011 041.

Last reviewed: October 2017

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