Former Consumer Director Arthritis Australia (rheumatoid arthritis)
Living with this condition, it doesn’t just impact on me. It really impacts on my husband and my two kids as well and that could be something down to asking one of the kids to help me do my buttons up or when we go shopping now the kids are old enough that they do all of the carrying of the groceries, they push the shopping trolley; I don’t have to do any of that physical aspect. So they’ve really grown up knowing that they need to help mum at certain stages if she needs it. But I think the more significant impact is emotionally what this does on the family because they’re living with a mum who one day is bright and sunny and happy and the next day might be in such severe pain that it’s really hard for me to have a genuine smile on my face and as the kids get older they’re so much more in tune with that.
It’s the same for my husband, that if I’m really sore and I’m having a really tough day that has an effect on them because they don’t like to see me being uncomfortable or in discomfort and that can really affect them as well. I think for a lot of people diagnosed with RA they’re already in their careers. I think having an earlier diagnosis in some way might even be a bit easier because you can then think ahead to will I need to have a career where I can manage my physical symptoms and perhaps have some flexibility to have time off as needed. I think for those people already entrenched in their careers and then they get an onset of RA, I think that must be so challenging because I think then there comes that responsibility perhaps to negotiate, change working conditions. So not necessarily a career change but do you need to go part-time, do you need to alter some of your duties, and while that can sound really intimidating and overwhelming, I think it’s achievable.
I think intrinsically most employers will support people in the workforce with a condition like RA and I think that if you’re working in conjunction with your employer that you can come up with some even slight adaptation to your role to ensure that you can stay in the workforce as long as possible.