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Tips for Everyday Living

How should a person with arthritis be treated? The answer seems simple: we all want to be treated equally. But because arthritis can limit a person’s mobility, people often aren’t sure how or when to offer help – and people with arthritis may not feel comfortable asking for help, either.

Below are some practical tips for both people with arthritis and those around them on how to give, and get, the assistance you need.

How and When to Offer Help

With Strangers:

  • Use common sense. Treat the person that way you would want to be treated.
  • Respond to the person, not the disability. Ask if and how you can help out and then only do what is specified. Don’t assume that you know what is best for them.
  • Be patient. If the person with arthritis needs extra time to perform an activity, allow them to complete it. Don’t hurry them along by trying to complete a task for them.
  • Offer assistance, but don’t automatically do something without asking. “Can I help?” or “May I help you?” shows respect; “Let me do that” does not. If the person accepts, ask “How can I help?” If the person declines assistance, don’t be offended and don’t insist on helping.
  • Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t touch a person, grab them by the arm or handle any assistive devices (such as a wheelchair, cane, etc.) without asking, and never move any equipment out of the person’s reach without asking permission.
  • Speak directly to the person with arthritis. Don’t ask the person’s companion for information. Address them with age-appropriate language.
  • Take your time. When walking, allow the person with arthritis to set the pace.
  • Use everyday speech. Don’t be embarrassed if you say, “Let’s run over to the store.” People with disabilities use these common expressions, too.
  • Talk about interests you share. It’s fine to talk about the person’s arthritis if it comes up, but don’t ask. Don’t offer pity, and don’t talk about how courageous the person is. Treat the person as you would anyone else.
  • Maintain eye contact. If the person uses a wheelchair, sit or bend down to talk so you are both at eye level.

With Friends or Family:

  • Listen. Sometimes that’s the best help you can offer.
  • Be willing to learn. Get the facts about your loved one’s arthritis, so you will understand how it is affecting him or her.
  • Ask when and how to help. Don’t try to do everything for a person with arthritis; allow them to do what they are able to, even if it takes longer.
  • Be flexible. If a planned dinner out turns into home-delivered pizza, remember: what’s important is spending time with someone you love.
  • Remember that arthritis isn’t always as visible as some other chronic illnesses, but it can cause your loved one to limit activities.

Asking for Help When You Have Arthritis

  • Acknowledge your limitations. Don’t get caught in the “I have to do it myself” trap. Ask for or accept help if you need it. Everyone needs help sometimes.
  • Communicate with others. Tell people very specifically how you would like them to help. Don’t assume people know what to do, or even that you need help.
  • Stay in the game. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk with friends and family about what you can and cannot do, and why. For example, if you have good days and bad days, let them know that any plans you make have to be tentative.
  • Educate others. Provide information and resources to friends and family about your disease – books, websites, brochures – so they can understand how arthritis affects you.
  • Find alternative ways of doing things you love. For example, if you love to travel but have a hard time sitting in a car for hours, let the driver know to plan ahead for frequent stops. Or if you’d like to go to a movie but don’t feel up to it, ask a friend to watch a video with you at home.
  • Let your friends and family know that sometimes all they need to do is listen. It may be helpful to find an arthritis support group with which you can share your feelings.


You can recieve the following information, mentioned in "Ann Landers:"

  • A copy of the brochure Arthritis Answers
  • A copy of "Who Cares? How to get the moral - and practical - support you need from family, friends or support groups."

Simply email Arthritis Answers and reference "Ann Landers." Don't forget to include your name and postal address so we can mail the information to you.

You also can get some of the help you need through Arthritis Foundation educational materials and programs. Locate your local office to learn more about:

  • Support Groups
  • Self-Help Courses
  • Educational Forums

Or visit our store to find books, brochures and video tapes that can help you or someone you love better understand the physical and emotional challenges that come with arthritis.


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