The Healthy Side of Rheumatoid Arthritis Caregiving

Tired of headline after headline about the downsides of caregiving? Keep reading. Find out why it's good for you to care for your loved one with RA. 

Susan Amoruso
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We don’t have to tell you that caring for a loved one with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can take a toll both physically and mentally. But, surprisingly, it can also positively impact your health.

Although caregivers are indeed more stressed, they also have higher physical endurance and better memories than noncaregivers. And some of the everyday actions that go with the territory—holding hands and hugging, for instance—can help ease anxiety and lead to improved well-being for both you and your loved one.

Read on to start reaping these health benefits of caring for your loved one with rheumatoid arthritis:

Improved strength
Amid running to doctor appointments, cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping, the idea of building strength may seem like a joke. Yet you may have more than you realize: A study of roughly 900 women, a group comprised of both caregivers and noncaregivers, found that caregivers outperformed noncaregivers in walking pace, grip strength and the speed with which they rose from a chair.

Make it work for you: Next time you’re feeling fatigued, grab your sneakers and go for a brisk walk. A little exercise can reenergize you and give you some much-needed “me time.”

Better memory
All that juggling you do—organizing schedules, making appointments, staying on top of medications—gives you a cognitive edge: In yet another study with the same group of 900 women proved that caregivers outwitted noncaregivers, scoring higher on memory tests. These findings aren’t surprising considering that caregiving is often a mental juggling act, as you try to organize, schedule and make decisions for yourself and your loved one with RA.

Make it work for you:
Try doing a crossword puzzle or playing some “brain games” with your loved one with RA. You’ll pass the time, stimulate your mind and strengthen your bond, too.

April 2013