Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis RA One Woman s Story

Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Today I present the perspective of a patient with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, redness, tenderness, and deformity in many joints. For patients, daily activities can pose significant challenges. This patient’s experience highlights how even the simplest tasks can be obstacles for someone with rheumatoid arthritis.

A Wife and Mother with RA

Mrs. K.D. is a 43-year-old wife and mother of two children who suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis. This is her story.

I have rheumatoid arthritis and want to share what a typical day is like for me. This is not about the disease or its treatment, but rather how it affects my daily life. Describing my experiences will hopefully raise awareness about the challenges people with rheumatoid arthritis face. It may also help acquaintances, friends, and family members understand how to interact with those who have this disease.

I am a 43-year-old wife and mother of two grade-schoolers. I have had severe rheumatoid arthritis for almost 10 years. My husband is supportive and understanding. The disease has caused deformity in my hands and feet. I have gnarled, bumpy fingers, wrists that are nearly fused, and cocked-up toes with calluses on my feet. My knees and knuckle joints are also slightly swollen.

Activities that most people take for granted, like sleeping, bathing, getting dressed, making meals, and driving a car, are extremely challenging for me.

A Typical Day with Rheumatoid Arthritis

My day starts after trying to get a good night’s rest. I often need to shift positions in bed because my shoulders become stiff and sore after half an hour on one side. When I sit up, I do so slowly because all my joints, including my knees, are stiff in the morning. I make my way to the kitchen, where I prepare coffee and lunches for my children.

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Due to finger dexterity issues caused by my deformities, I prefer prepackaged snacks for their sandwiches. I use a knife with an oversized grip handle and a lid gripper pad to open jars. I loosely screw the lids back on for easier opening next time. Fruits require no extra preparation from me.

The kids make their own breakfast cereals, while I eat toast with jelly and have cereal. I take my medications with breakfast. All my medication bottles have easy-open lids for arthritis patients. Today, I added acetaminophen for my particularly bothersome joint pains. I make sure to keep my medications away from the reach of children, as they can be harmful.

After breakfast, I start my morning hygiene routine. Using the toilet can be challenging due to significant arthritis in my hips and knees. I added plastic raised toilet seat attachments at home to make it easier to sit down and get up.

For brushing my teeth, I find an electric toothbrush more effective than a manual one. My severe dry mouth, known as Sjögren’s syndrome, makes me prone to tooth decay. I see the dentist regularly and require a Y-shaped floss holder for assistance. Dryness in my eyes from Sjögren’s syndrome also requires regular application of artificial tears, preventing me from wearing contact lenses.

I undress from my nightgown and shower while waiting for the morning medications to kick in. I prefer warm showers as they help to loosen up my joints. Shampooing my hair can be difficult, so I use a scrub brush. I must be cautious getting in and out of the shower to avoid falling due to my unstable legs. I dry off with a towel in front of a space heater fan.

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As you can see, my mornings are not as simple as jumping out of bed, quickly fixing lunches, and taking a quick shower. It is a calculated process using tools that help me adapt to and complete everyday tasks.

Dressing Despite RA Pain

Dressing can be "challenging." I prefer clothing that doesn’t require much buttoning, as that is difficult for my fingers. Many of my shirts are pullovers or have Velcro attachments. When buttoning is necessary, I use a button hooker. My bra can be fastened in front and reversed, or my husband helps me with it. Most of my pants have elastic waistbands and do not require buttons or zippers. I prioritize comfort over fashion since my role is taking care of my household.

I participate in a carpool for the children’s school, and today is my driving day. Getting in and out of the car takes time, and I appreciate it when one of the kids opens the door for me. I have a special key enlarger attachment, which makes it easier to turn keys. Driving is doable but often causes aching in my wrists.

Exercising with Rheumatoid Arthritis

I like to exercise every day at home. I start with stretching exercises to loosen up and then either ride a stationary bike or go on a walk. I also swim in our neighborhood pool once a week. Exercise makes me feel good and gives me a sense of control over my body.

Like any family, we have endless household chores. I use vacuum attachments to reach difficult spots. Lever-style door handles make it easier for me to turn them. I rarely do any ironing and have a good relationship with the dry cleaner. The children help keep their rooms tidy.

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The Challenges of Cooking, Bedtime Routines, and Intimacy with RA

I use special grippers to handle pots and pans when cooking on the stove. We have an electric can opener that is easy on my weak fingers. Tonight, we’re having salmon, which my husband will grill. My doctor says that fish oil in salmon can reduce inflammation in my joints. I take my evening medications with dinner.

Everyone helps with the dishes, and we take breaks, especially for me.

After dinner, the kids do their homework, and my husband or I assist when needed. We watch some television for an hour before deciding it’s time to go to bed. I tuck the kids in with a kiss.

Undressing is as challenging as dressing. My husband often helps me undress, although he isn’t always available in the morning. When my joints are less inflamed, I can have sexual intercourse for pleasure. Tonight was one of those nights. Dressing for bed afterwards gave me an adrenaline rush.

Before bed, I plug in the electric toothbrush again and floss. I lubricate my eyes with artificial tears. I’ve had a full day and am quite tired. My wrists are a bit sore tonight, maybe from vacuuming or driving, or perhaps just bad luck. I put on wrist splints and read a few chapters of my novel before calling it a night.

Good night, and thank you for reading about my day.

Sincerely,
Mrs. K.D.

Sincerely,
Mrs. K.D.

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