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How to support a loved one with arthritis

A woman rests her hands and cheek on a man's shoulder while looking up at him.

Aug. 16, 2021—A chronic illness like arthritis can put some strain on even the strongest relationships. If a loved one has arthritis, both of you might feel angry at the changes the disease has forced upon you. You both might also feel some guilt—for having the disease or for being resentful and sad about it. Or you may feel a sense of grief at the loss of activities you can't do together anymore.

These are normal emotions, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Rather than hide them, it's a good idea to talk about them openly and honestly. That kind of communication can strengthen your relationship and foster a new intimacy.

Here are some tips for talking with and supporting your loved one with arthritis:

Acknowledge each other's feelings. Make a pact to let each other know when either of you is struggling. When loved ones feel free to talk about their disappointments, it can strengthen their bond.

Don't let arthritis seep into every part of your life. Designate "arthritis-free" times when you agree not to talk about it, such as mealtimes or in bed at night.

Find new activities you can do together. Those friends you used to go hiking with? Invite them over for a monthly game night so you aren't missing out on those connections.

Don't try to do it all yourself. Rather than take on every one of your loved one's chores, ask family and friends to help with some of the easier tasks. Save some of your energy for that all-important emotional support.

Understand that you can't fix everything. When your loved one talks about their difficulties, realize they may just be wanting to vent. You can listen without trying to solve every problem.

Cut each other some slack. Know that you're going to get frustrated at times and even say things you might not mean. Just be sure you make space to come back together to talk about it.

Consider seeing a therapist. They can teach you communication tools to navigate difficult conversations and grow even closer.

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