6 Ways to Care for Yourself and Your Loved One With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Caregiving for a loved one with RA can leave little room for you. Have you carved out any time for yourself this week? If not, read on.

Susan Amoruso
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If you’re caring for someone with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the idea of personal time—yes, for you!—may seem awfully elusive. With caregivers spending an average of 41 hours per week tending to their loved one’s needs (according to Evercare, an organization that provides caregiving support services), that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room just for you. Yet carving out some “me time” will help you rejuvenate and relieve your stress.

Here are some simple tricks to find the time you didn’t know you had:

  1. Make an appointment—with yourself!
    This may sound ridiculous, but make an appointment with yourself. Pencil some “me time” onto your calendar, or plug it into your smartphone. Whether you block out 15 minutes for a bubble bath or an hour for a fitness class, regard this designated time slot like any other appointment—don’t schedule conflicting activities, and don’t be late!
  2. Maximize your mornings
    Try setting your alarm just 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual, and use the extra time to do something just for you. Make a healthy breakfast, read the paper, take a long shower, meditate—whatever you choose, pick a routine that lets you ease into the day your way!
  3. Buy some time
    How much is your time worth? Ask yourself that question, and determine whether any services are worth outsourcing. For example, could you hire a neighborhood teenager to mow the lawn? Will paying for grocery delivery or a cleaning service save you time?
  4. Make it a family affair
    Don’t assume that you have to do everything for your loved one with rheumatoid arthritis. Even if you’re the primary caregiver, you can enlist family members to share the load. Create a chore schedule, for example, so everyone can take shifts, giving you a little more personal time. Ask your son to take out the garbage or your daughter to take on dish duty a few times a week. 
  5. Take shortcuts 
    Bills, laundry, dishes, meal prep, doctor appointments, insurance companies, grocery shopping—with all these duties, there must be some way to take shortcuts. Can you set up automatic bill pay? Can you cook a little extra and freeze the leftovers for later in the week? Examine your daily activities and then assess what you could be doing more efficiently. If you’re not sure about a task, ask yourself two questions: “What will happen if I don’t do it?” and “Can someone else do it for me?” The answers will help guide you in finding some moments for yourself.
  6. Learn to say no 
    And if that’s too hard, just learn to say, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” You’re only one person, and saying yes to everyone means you’re spreading yourself too thin. The key is to strike a healthy balance between giving and receiving.
April 2013