5 Nice Things to Do for a Loved One Who Has Rheumatoid Arthritis

Caring for someone with RA? Get her smiling with one of these simple mood boosters. Not only will it brighten your loved one’s mood, it may even ease her pain! 

Diana Bierman
Reviewed by
Greg Schimizzi, MD

Believe it or not, a simple smile can bring big benefits to someone with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Researchers at the University of Kansas found that a genuine grin can calm heart rate and help defuse stress. Smiling can even help relieve pain. When researchers applied heat to the forearms of study participants, those who smiled felt less pain than participants who frowned.

Try these ideas for getting your partner, parent or other loved one beaming.

Give a gift. Who doesn’t like to receive presents? Give your loved one something that will distract her from the pain, such as a new flick starring a favorite actor. Or buy a new pair of slippers and a warm throw blanket. Bonus: A study published in Psychological Bulletin showed that splurging on other people instead of yourself boosts your own overall happiness in addition to theirs.

Lighten their load. Cleaning the house or doing laundry may seem easy to you, but it can be a burden to someone with RA, especially during a flare. You might also offer to make the bed or load the dishwasher. Even something as simple as getting the mail or watering the plants can help.

Cook a meal. RA can make cooking a challenge, so put on your chef hat and whip up a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner for your loved one. Opt for dishes that boast sources of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon or mackerel). Stew, soup and chili are hearty and heartwarming dishes, too. Make a little extra so your loved one can freeze and reheat the leftovers when you’re not around.

Go to an appointment. Visiting the rheumatologist with your loved one is an easy way to take an active role in her care and lend moral support. A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that when caregivers consistently went with older loved ones to appointments, their overall quality of health increased.

Provide positive physical contact. Holding your loved one’s hand or giving a simple hug is a great way to lower stress and boost mood. The reason? Physical affection triggers the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone that fosters a sense of warmth and security.

April 2013