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Abstract

Objective

To portray experiences of women engaging in everyday tasks, activities, and occupations, from symptom onset to 12 months after diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to explore the meanings attributed to their activities and occupations.

Methods

A secondary analysis of qualitative data, guided by phenomenography, explored the stories of 37 women with early RA. The original study used in-depth interviews to explore the help-seeking process from first symptom to diagnosis, and results indicated unexplored impacts on activity, stimulating the present analysis. Transcripts were read and coded by 3 investigators and then debated by the full team with this new research objective in mind. Descriptive categories were formed through a systematic, iterative approach with a focus on how early RA impacted daily routines and participation in occupation.

Results

Participants recounted a range of experiences characterized by changes in the way they engaged in occupations as a result of RA symptoms. Four interrelated categories were identified: uncertainties associated with good days, bad days, and worse days; experiencing activity disruption; doing things differently, which was perceived both positively and negatively; and changing views of self, as participants developed identities as individuals living with RA.

Conclusion

Daily activities and occupational identity can be profoundly impacted in the first 12 months after diagnosis with RA, resulting in significant life changes. Health professionals are encouraged to identify disrupted activities, facilitate participation in valued occupations, and create environments that enable patients to explore changes in identity to prevent negative life consequences.