There are many resources available to help you live with rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor may put you in touch with a social worker, who can help explain the financial and health services that are available to you. These can include any pensions or allowances that you might be entitled to, plus any financial assistance such as Health Care Concession Cards or low-cost treatment programs. Your local council, community health centre, community group or religious organisation may also offer programs that include practical advice, activities, social networks or just someone to talk to.
Arthritis Australia is always here to help you too. Contact your State/Territory Arthritis Office to find out about their wide range of resources, management programs and support groups – call 1800 011 041 or visit arthritisaustralia.com.au/contact-us/
In addition, there are Independent Living Centres in each state that provide advice on products and services, including aids and devices, that can help with day-to-day activities. Visit www.ilcaustralia.org.au or call 1300 885 886 for your closest centre or more information.
Who can help?
There are many people who can help you deal with both the functional and emotional side of rheumatoid arthritis. Your first step is to try to talk honestly with your partner, parents or children about how you feel. Give them a chance to talk too – they might have worries or feel that they don’t know enough about your condition and how it is affecting you.
Visit your GP if you are worried about how well you are coping, as your GP may be able to suggest additional ways of coping, or may prescribe medicines if you are especially worried or depressed. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis will also visit a physiotherapist (physio). These practitioners can use various treatments, including exercise therapy and hydrotherapy (water exercise), to keep your joints as flexible, strong and pain-free as possible. They will also show you exercises and pain-relief techniques to use at home.
You might also visit an occupational therapist (OT), or they may come to your home or work. OTs can provide advice on how to do things in a way that reduces joint strain and pain and teach you strategies to protect the mobility of your joints, particularly those in your hands. They may also suggest changes to your house — such as new taps — or aids such as splints that can make life easier and protect your joints.
A podiatrist can help take care of your feet. They may find ways to reduce the pain in your toes, knees or hips, perhaps by providing shoe inserts or advice on footwear.
An exercise physiologist can give you advice about exercise, including how to get started safely and the best type of exercise for your health and ability.
Your GP may also refer you to a counsellor or psychologist, who can talk to you about your worries, feelings and moods, then suggest practical ways to work through them. If you want to contact a psychologist directly, call the Australian Psychological Society on 1800 333 497 or visit www.psychology.org.au. Beyondblue also provides information and advice about depression, anxiety, available treatments and where to get help. Visit www.beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636. Lifeline provides a 24hr confidential telephone crisis support service for anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis. Call 13 11 14.
Additional resources in Australia:
For advice on healthy eating and appropriate exercise, visit the Department of Health and Aged Care www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise
For advice on quitting smoking, contact the Quitline www.quitnow.gov.au
Ph: 13 78 48
To find a rheumatologist, contact the Australian Rheumatology Association www.rheumatology.org.au
Ph: (02) 9252 2356
To find a dermatologist, contact the Australasian College of Dermatologists www.dermcoll.edu.au
Ph: (02) 8741 4101
To find a physiotherapist, contact the Australian Physiotherapy Association www.physiotherapy.asn.au
Ph: 1300 306 622
To find an occupational therapist, contact Occupational Therapy Australia www.otaus.com.au
Ph: 1300 682 878
To find a podiatrist, contact the Australian Podiatry Council www.apodc.com.au
Ph: (03) 9416 3111
To find an exercise physiologist, contact Exercise and Sports Science Australia www.essa.org.au
Ph: (07) 3171 3335
To find a dietitian, contact the Dietitians Association of Australia www.daa.asn.au
Ph: 1800 812 942
To find a psychologist, contact the Australian Psychological Society www.psychology.org.au
Ph: 1800 333 497
The public area on the website of the American College of Rheumatology contains many useful resources www.rheumatology.org
Versus Arthritis UK also provides a wide variety of information for people with arthritis www.versusarthritis.org
Arthritis Research UK – Sex, pregnancy and rheumatoid arthritis
Thank you to the American College of Rheumatology and Versus Arthritis for contribution of content and materials the above overview.