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Keywords:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Function;
  • Disability;
  • Accommodations;
  • Valued life activities;
  • Health Assessment Questionnaire

Abstract

Objective

To describe the prevalence of using 4 specific behavioral accommodations (assistive devices, personal assistance, limits on the amount or kind of activities, and taking more time to perform activities) in the performance of valued life activities (VLAs), and to examine the impact of accounting for these accommodations on VLA disability scores.

Methods

Data were from a panel study of 467 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) interviewed annually by telephone. VLA disability was assessed using a 29-item scale, rating difficulty performing each activity and asking whether the 4 types of accommodations were used. An unadjusted difficulty score based solely on difficulty ratings was calculated, as well as 3 adjusted scores accounting for use of assistance or devices, use of assistance, devices, or limitations in activities, and use of all 4 accommodations.

Results

Accommodations were widely used by individuals with RA to perform daily activities. Limits and more time were used for more activities than assistance and devices. Adjustment for accommodations produced substantial increases in disability scores (e.g., the mean total VLA difficulty score increased by 84% after adjustment for all 4 accommodations).

Conclusion

The accommodations included on the Health Assessment Questionnaire, the most commonly used measure of functioning for RA, include only assistive devices and personal assistance, which were not the accommodations most frequently used in our sample. If assessments are intended to estimate total disease burden, they should include use of a broader range of accommodations to develop a more complete picture of how daily function is affected.