Understanding Arthritis: Tips for Family and Friends of Arthritis Sufferers

Understanding arthritis may not be something one may think of if they don’t suffer from it. Odds are, someone has said something you considered rude about your arthritis. They aren’t purposely misunderstanding or uncompassionate. Many people simply don’t understand your pain and how much it impacts your life. Here are a few tips you can share with friends or family about understanding arthritis.

Listen:
It’s common for someone to express themselves and have the other person to share their opinion to compare. When someone with arthritis sees you as a confidant, simply listen to what they have to say. Try not to interrupt, don’t tell them they’re wrong or imagining their own pain. If a person with arthritis opens up to you, they’re trusting you with their emotions.

Don’t Assume:
Never assume you know what someone is going through. If you have never lived in their shoes, you don’t know what they feel on a day-to-day basis. Many chronic pain patients are suffering in silence. They may look fine, but they may be experiencing pain right before your eyes without you even knowing.  

Learn:
Understanding arthritis can be as simple as reading a couple of online articles, a book or asking someone with arthritis questions. It never hurts to learn about arthritis even if you don’t have it. The fact that you have some knowledge of what a sufferer goes through will prevent you from judging their pain. You never know, you may learn something that may become helpful to a friend or relative who has arthritis.

Offer Support:
Sometimes just having someone to lean on for support can mean a lot to a person. Don’t get upset with them if they can’t attend social activities like they used to or do certain activities. They aren’t being antisocial, so don’t criticize them if they turn down your invite.  People with arthritis have to cope with new limitations. They may not be able to live the exact same life they lived before.

Don’t Be Overprotective:
Don’t treat a person with arthritis as if they aren’t capable of doing anything. They can still do a lot, so don’t place limitations on them.

Be Flexible:
A person with arthritis has good and bad days, so be flexible with them. Don’t be too strict with your expectations of them. Be willing to ride their pain waves instead of casting them to the side.

Attend Doctor Appointments:
If your friend or relative is open, ask if you can attend their doctor appointment. Not only will this demonstrate your support, but it also provides you with an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about arthritis directly from their physician.

Don’t Tell Them What to Think:
Never tell someone with chronic pain what they should do and how to think. Their pain is their own. Imposing on their thoughts can cause stress and frustration. Stress can cause arthritis pain to worsen. The last thing they need you to do is unintentionally cause more pain.

Discuss How Their Arthritis Affects You:
This is a touchy subject. It’s best to have this two-way discussion with the person if they are a close friend, relative or spouse. Try to avoid having this conversation with someone like a coworker. A close bond should not be degraded because of arthritis. There is always a workaround if you’re both willing to communicate effectively.

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